3/3/2014 2:27 P.M. ET
Rivals-turned-teammates headline Crew's rotation
By Ben Haber / Special to MLB.com
PHOENIX -- In 2012, Yovani Gallardo, Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza battled as rivals in the NL Central -- Gallardo in Milwaukee, Lohse for the Cardinals and Garza at the front of the Cubs' rotation. Two years later, the three now sit alongside each other in the clubhouse as teammates with the Brewers.
While their teams fought on the field, there are few previous head-to-head showdowns between the three pitchers. Surprisingly, Garza never pitched on the same day as Lohse or Gallardo. The little bit of bragging rights goes to Gallardo, who beat Lohse in two of the three games in which they faced one another. On May 7, 2013, Gallardo defeated Lohse in a pitchers' duel, combining to log 16 innings while surrendering one total run.
Lohse, 35, said it took time to move past the Cardinals in favor of the Brewers.
"You stick around in this league long enough and you are going to be on one team from another. It's weird the first year after because you have a lot of friends on that team that you went to battle with," Lohse said. "You are also fighting for the same thing. You don't want them to win, and you want to win."
While Lohse has taken the diamond for five teams, Gallardo has only pitched for the Brewers. Gallardo struggled in the 2013 campaign. He had the worst ERA of his career at 4.18 and went 10-11. Gallardo worked to improve his mechanics in an effort to get back on track in 2014. The strong mutual relationship Gallardo and the organization share ads additional incentive to regain his 2010 All-Star form.
"The [Brewers] have been great to me. I think last year was a down year for myself, and I still have to go out there and perform for these guys," Gallardo said. "They have stuck around with me. They have showed me how much they believe in me."
Even though all three pitchers are now teammates, the competition between them won't dissipate, it will evolve.
"There will still be a little competition against each other, but not in a bad way. In a good way," Gallardo said. "It's going to help the team out, it's going to help us out. Looking forward to it."
Bringing Garza into the equation created headline news this offseason after he signed a four-year, $50 million deal. Garza began 2013 on the Cubs and got traded to the Rangers on July 23. Making big splashes in free agency isn't the Brewers calling card, but Gallardo believes the acquisition of Garza will pay off.
"I think [Garza] is going to just make us that much better. Having that opportunity was a big move for us," Gallardo said. "He has fun, but yet again, he takes care of business whenever he has to. He is here to help out with the young guys, too."
Garza, 30, expects the Brewers to win and contend immediately. The biggest difference Garza notices on the Brewers is their steady veteran leadership, while the Cubs were full of youth.
Inside the clubhouse, Garza seems very comfortable already. Garza consistently jokes and banters with teammates. On Wednesday afternoon, Garza found out Scooter Gennet's actual first name is Ryan, and proceeded to come up with other lighthearted nickname options.
"I'm not going to stop talking. Open guys up, you don't always have to be so serious," Garza said. "There are times to let you guard down and be a human."
Developing camaraderie will be an ongoing process, and Lohse hopes it takes place on the golf course. Lohse, a Scottsdale, Ariz., resident, fits in with local Arizonans because of his passion for golf. However, Gallardo and Garza would rather not pick up the clubs.
"I have taken [Gallardo] up to my place three times already. I think that is more golf than he has played in his whole life," Lohse said. "We've got to get [Garza] out there. You got to do things like that and this is the time to do it. We are on the field getting our work done, but it's also important to build that trust off the field."
Ben Haber is a senior majoring in journalism at Arizona State University. This story is part of a Cactus League partnership between MLB.com and Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.