Former Brewers abound in Rangers' dugout

Former Brewers abound in Rangers' dugout

ARLINGTON -- How did Carlos Gomez salvage his season after leaving the Astros for the Rangers? It helped that he walked into a new clubhouse full of familiar faces.

They're the Texas Brewers, or the Milwaukee Rangers if you like. Gomez joined a Texas team with three former teammates from his years in Milwaukee, including two from the 2011 Brewers club that came within two victories of the World Series. Prince Fielder, Jonathan Lucroy and Jeremy Jeffress made Gomez feel comfortable from the "Go-Go."

"It's like coming back home again," Gomez said.

Gomez's old team visited his new one beginning Monday, when the Brewers and Rangers began a three-game Interleague series at Globe Life Park. Even without Fielder in the house -- he succumbed to a career-ending neck injury earlier this summer -- the connections abounded. Besides the three former Brewers active for Texas, Milwaukee starter Matt Garza pitched for the Rangers in the second half of 2013 before signing a four-year, $50 million contract with the Brewers. Milwaukee reliever Corey Knebel was also briefly with the Rangers before they traded him to the Brewers in the Jan. 19, 2015, deal for Yovani Gallardo.

The most recent ties between the teams belonged to Lucroy and Jeffress, who were dealt at the Aug. 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline for three top prospects. Jeffress was available in the Rangers' bullpen on Monday for the first time since returning from a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility following an arrest for driving under the influence. Lucroy has performed just as advertised since the trade, entering Monday with a .281/.353/.548 slash line and 10 home runs in his first 150 plate appearances with the Rangers.

Braun on facing former teammates

"It should be pretty interesting," Lucroy said of facing his former teammates. "Probably a lot of smack talking going on, but that's OK. I wouldn't expect anything less."

Said Jeffress: "There's a lot of guys that I'm itching to pitch against. I remember when I was there, there were a lot of guys who said they really wanted to face me if I ever played for a different team. Well, now they'll get their chance."

Gomez, traded to Houston last year with Mike Fiers, entered the series with an .822 OPS in his first 28 games in a Rangers uniform after struggling to a .594 OPS this season for Houston. The Astros released him Aug. 18 and he signed with the Rangers two days later.

"I don't want to talk about Houston," Gomez said. "It's something that didn't work out there. It's in the past. My season started as soon as I signed here. That's what I'm thinking."

Of his fresh start with the Rangers, Gomez said, "It's a big opportunity. They signed me and gave me basically the everyday job. 'Just go to left field. You're my left fielder.' How I started in Houston, and then to come here and lead off and play left field, they saw something the other team didn't see. It's a big opportunity. It's a blessing to be on a winning team. … It's a good team to go to the World Series."

The only one missing Monday was Fielder, though he did join the Rangers over the weekend in Oakland to celebrate winning the division. Fielder held a news conference on Aug. 10 to confirm that he would be unable to return from a second neck surgery.

"It was sad," said Lucroy, who had just joined Texas a week earlier. "The last time I played with Prince, he was in his prime. He was an offensive force. It was 2011, right before he got that big contract with the Tigers. I felt bad for him, going through what he had gone through.

"But he's definitely handling it really well. He's happy. He's been coming to some games lately. He's still a part of a lot of this and a lot of guys here love him and respect him as much as we did in Milwaukee."

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.