MILWAUKEE -- "I know things have changed a little bit," said Yovani Gallardo of returning to his original baseball home, nearly three years after the Brewers traded him for prospects.A little bit?Someone hand that man a roster.Only Ryan Braun, Jimmy Nelson and Jeremy Jeffress remain from the 2014 Brewers, and
MILWAUKEE -- "I know things have changed a little bit," said Yovani Gallardo of returning to his original baseball home, nearly three years after the Brewers traded him for prospects.
A little bit?
Someone hand that man a roster.
Only Ryan Braun, Jimmy Nelson and Jeremy Jeffress remain from the 2014 Brewers, and Jeffress gets an asterisk because he left Milwaukee and came back. Manager Craig Counsell is another former teammate, but his playing days ended in 2011 at the height of Gallardo's tenure with the team. General manager Doug Melvin, who was at the helm when the Brewers made Gallardo a second-round Draft pick in 2004, and who traded Gallardo to the Rangers in January 2015 for a package of young players including current closer Corey Knebel, is a senior advisor now. He was replaced by a new GM in David Stearns, who is only one year and nine days older than Gallardo.
So, yes, things have changed a little bit.
"No matter what, Milwaukee's been home for me since Day 1," Gallardo said. "It's a totally different group, but it's just a matter of going there and fitting right in and being one of the veteran guys on the team."
Gallardo bet on himself when he agreed to a one-year deal with the Brewers that was finalized just before Christmas. His $2 million base salary won't be guaranteed until Opening Day, and the $2 million in incentives included bonuses for both innings and appearances, offering Gallardo some extra earnings whether he ends up in Milwaukee's starting rotation or in the bullpen.
It's a fresh start for a right-hander who turns 32 at the end of February and who ranks among the Brewers' all-time leaders in most pitching categories.
"We all know that the last couple years haven't gone good for me," said Gallardo, referring to seasons spent with the Orioles and Mariners in which he compiled a 5.57 ERA in 248 2/3 innings. "I think it's just a matter of minor adjustments. To join a club like [Milwaukee] with a pitching coach [Derek Johnson] that has a young staff and did what he did, it's a good fit.
"It's just a matter of going back to where I was comfortable. I spent seven years there wearing that uniform. It's home. Just a bunch of good memories, and hopefully keep building on that this upcoming year."
Gallardo's own best memories of his Milwaukee tenure are of some of the best moments for the last generation of Brewers fans. When the franchise made it back to the postseason in 2008 after a 26-year drought, Gallardo came back from an ACL injury in time to start Game 1 of the National League Division Series against the Phillies.
"To get the ball for Game 1 in the playoffs and the team hadn't been to the playoffs in quite a bit, I think it helped me throughout my career," Gallardo said, "to just keep working hard and never let the organization down and never let the city down. It helped me a lot in the following six years."
Can he believe next season will mark 10 years since the '08 club broke the Brewers' postseason drought?
"Time flies," Gallardo said. "Actually, I discussed that with a couple guys up there [when he was in Milwaukee for his physical]. It's crazy."
Three years later in 2011, the Brewers set a franchise record by winning 96 games with a starting rotation co-anchored by Gallardo and Zack Greinke. Gallardo again got the ball for Game 1 of the NLDS, this time against the D-backs.
All told, Gallardo had a 2.16 ERA in five starts and one relief appearance in the postseason for the Brewers, on top of his 3.69 ERA in nearly 1,300 innings during the regular season. He remains the franchise's all-time leader with 1,226 strikeouts.
Part of him, Gallardo said, remained a Brewer when he went away. He followed from afar last season as his former team made a surprise bid for a postseason spot.
"From what you could see on TV, it looked like they had fun," he said. "I've been in that situation before with the team in Milwaukee -- it's not a team that a lot of people count on, and you just have to build off of it. To be able to come down to the final month of the season [fighting] for a playoff spot, it shows a lot. It shows a lot about the character they have."
Now he's back, hoping to help his old team get back into October.
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.