Ryne Sandberg spent nearly his entire 16-year Hall of Fame playing career with the Cubs and had openly wished to manage the team following his playing days.
Instead, on Friday, Sandberg will find himself in the visiting dugout in his return to the all-too-familiar Wrigley Field in what is still a bit of an unfamiliar role. Two weeks after being named the Phillies' interim skipper, Sandberg will lead his club into a three-game series that will open Friday with Roy Halladay squaring off against Cubs righty Jeff Samardzija.
Though many eyes will be on Halladay for his second start in his return from right shoulder surgery, it figures to be a memorable night for Sandberg, who spent 15 years playing on the North Side of Chicago. During his Hall of Fame career, Sandberg racked up 10 consecutive All-Star appearances from 1984-93, nine straight Gold Glove Awards ('83-91) and one National League MVP Award ('84).
"I'm sure he'll get a standing ovation," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "This guy is in the Hall of Fame. He's arguably the best second baseman to play the game, and he did it all in Chicago. It'll be a nice moment for him to come back, after getting his first job, and a couple weeks after he gets it, he comes to Chicago for the first time."
Following his playing days, Sandberg later returned to the Cubs' organization, managing for four years in the Minor Leagues, beginning at Class A Peoria in 2007. Though he hoped to land the Cubs' big league managerial job following the 2010 season, Chicago instead hired Mike Quade, who was dismissed after one season at the helm.
The Cubs then turned to Sveum, who had a very similar post-playing career path to that of Sandberg. Sveum also managed in the Minor Leagues and had aspirations to manage the Brewers, with whom he spent the bulk of his playing career. However, he was passed over by Milwaukee before ultimately landing his current gig.
"I don't think it's tough to get over," Sveum said. "It's just part of the game, and you understand the business part and how lucky it is to get one of these jobs. There's luck involved. There's a circulation of managers being let go. There's only 30 of these jobs and for newcomers to get one, it's hard to do."
Phillies: Halladay looks to build off last start
Halladay impressed in his unexpected return from the disabled list on Sunday, picking up a victory against the D-backs while allowing just two runs off four hits over six innings.
Originally expected to make a third rehab start for Double-A Reading on Sunday and make his long-awaited return from right shoulder surgery this weekend, Halladay's plans changed when Philadelphia needed a new starter following Saturday's 18-inning contest. In his first big league action in more than three months, Halladay said he felt like his old self; his fastball sat in the 87-89-mph range.
"I'm getting back to who I was," Halladay said. "I feel like each time out, I'm progressing back to where I was. There are going to be changes, and you always change over your career. But I think my arm slot is back to where it used to be. The movement is back to where it used to be. I can be more consistent with the location. Just from talking to the doctors, the velocity is the last thing to come."
The 36-year-old had struggled over the last two seasons, going 13-12 with a 5.24 ERA in 32 starts, including 2-4 with a 8.65 ERA in seven starts this year before undergoing surgery in May.
Cubs: Samardzija hopes to keep rolling
Samardzija on Friday will make his first start since earning co-NL Player of the Week honors following his two dominant outings last week. The righty tossed a complete game, limiting the Nationals to just one run on Aug. 19 before working eight solid innings in which he yielded just two runs on Saturday against the Padres.
"It's obviously well-deserved," Sveum said of Samardzija's first career weekly honor. "Those were two dominating starts that he had."
The 17 innings over two starts also helped push Samardzija closer to his goal of pitching at least 200 innings. In his second full season as a starter, he has pitched 176 1/3 innings, with an 8-11 record to go along with a 4.03 ERA.
• Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro is 7-for-14 (.500) lifetime against Halladay with one home run and four RBIs.
• Overall, Samardzija is 1-3 with a 12.82 ERA lifetime against Philadelphia. Though he limited the Phillies to three earned runs over 6 2/3 innings (4.05 ERA) in six relief appearances, he has been tagged for 16 earned runs over the same amount of innings (21.60 ERA) in his two starts against the Phils.
• The Phillies are 3-15 over their last 18 road games, dating back to July 20.