He left to join the Atlanta Braves as a free agent after that season, and won Cy Youngs in his first three years with them.
Now, after 12 seasons, Maddux makes his return in a Cubs uniform in the middle game of their opening series against the Cincinnati Reds at the Great American Ball Park.
“I hope I don’t feel any different,” Maddux said. “Hopefully, I’ll have the same amount of butterflies as in the past. It’s a new team, but the same game. That’s the attitude I take. I’m doing the same thing I’ve always done, I’m just wearing a different shirt.”
Maddux, who turns 38 on April 14, returned to the Cubs as a free agent in February, going back to his roots and a team that’s hoping to get back to the World Series for the first time since 1945.
“He fits in perfect with the rotation,” outfielder Sammy Sosa said.
Nobody expects Maddux to dominate the way he did in his 11 years with Atlanta. He lost 11 games last season and had a 3.96 ERA that was his worst since his rookie season.
He won’t compare this team to any of his teams in Atlanta, which made the playoffs each season but won only that one World Series title.
“Especially this time of year, it’s really easy to expect to win,” Maddux said. “I don’t think it’s any secret that when I was in Atlanta, every opening day we were expected to win.”
For the first time in years, the Cubs are expected to win, partly because of how they upgraded the roster in the offseason. Maddux joined a rotation that already included Kerry Wood and Mark Prior, who isn’t expected to pitch until next month.
Cincinnati is hoping Griffey will be in the lineup after missing Monday’s game. Griffey, who sat out because of a strained right calf, is batting .417 (5-for-12) with a home run and two RBIs against Maddux.
Griffey reluctantly took a few more days to rest a strained calf injured a week ago in Florida. The injury-prone outfielder paced in the dugout with a bat in each hand, but never got to hit.
“We played some spring training games without him and we did all right, but you always want a stud like that in your lineup,” Reds shortstop Barry Larkin said.