Even though Chicago Cubs management didn't want Ryne Sandberg to return, their fans will surely give him a very warm welcome back to Wrigley Field.
It long seemed Sandberg was in line to manage the team with which he became a Hall of Famer, but instead he'll be in the opposing dugout Friday for his first game at Wrigley as a manager as he leads the Philadelphia Phillies against the Cubs.
"I'm sure he'll get a standing ovation," Cubs manager Dale Sveum told the team's official website. "... 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."
One of the best and most beloved players in franchise history, Sandberg had his No. 23 retired by Chicago in 2005 after a 15-year career which included 10 All-Star appearances and nine consecutive Gold Gloves.
"I guess the first thing (back at Wrigley) is I'll probably check out my flag out there on the right-field pole," the former second baseman told the Phillies' website.
He began coaching in the Cubs' minor league system in 2007 and eventually moved up to Triple-A Iowa, winning PCL manager of the year in 2010.
The Cubs' managerial job was available that offseason following Lou Piniella's retirement, but former general manager Jim Hendry went with Mike Quade. Quade was let go after one year as Theo Epstein took over, but the new team president told Sandberg he wasn't being considered for manager despite many fans wanting him at the helm.
Chicago (56-77) has baseball's second-worst record since Sveum took over.
Sandberg managed the Phillies' Triple-A team for two years before becoming Philadelphia's third-base coach this season, and he was handed the head job on an interim basis after Charlie Manuel was fired Aug. 16. The Phillies (61-73) have gone 8-6 since the change.
"He never expected any more than what you could give him, and as long as you were giving him that, he was fine," said Jeff Samardzija, who pitched for Sandberg at Iowa and will go against him Friday.
Though Samardzija is the reigning NL co-player of the week following two impressive starts, there's probably more interest in how this game's other starter will perform.
Roy Halladay (3-4, 7.81 ERA) will make his second start since spending more than three months on the disabled list following shoulder surgery. The two-time Cy Young Award winner won his return Sunday, giving up two runs and four hits in six innings of a 9-5 victory over Arizona.
"Each time out I'm progressing back to where I was," Halladay said after his first win since April 19.
Halladay's 2-5 record against the Cubs is his worst versus any opponent, though he has a lifetime 3.68 ERA against them.
Samardzija (8-11, 4.03) has been a bright spot lately for Chicago, loser of 13 of 17, and now looks to win three straight starts for the first time.
Five days after going the distance in an 11-1 win over Washington, Samardzija surrendered two runs in eight innings of a 3-2 victory at San Diego on Saturday. The right-hander had gone 0-2 with a 9.39 ERA through his first three games of August.
One of those starts came in Philadelphia and was possibly the worst of his career, ripped for nine runs and 11 hits in 3 1-3 innings of a 12-1 defeat Aug. 8.
Darin Ruf homered and singled off him that day but is 2 for 16 with no extra-base hits since homering in three straight games.
Chase Utley doubled twice off Samardzija earlier this month and has hit .432 in his last 10 games at Wrigley, where the Cubs have dropped 16 of 19.
The Phillies have lost 15 of 18 on the road.