Even for Lohse, Garza deal ‘came out of the blue’

Kyle Lohse chatted with Brewers manager Ron Roenicke last week, and Roenicke never let on that the club was even considering adding a starting pitcher.

So when Lohse saw social media light up Thursday with the news that the Brewers had signed Matt Garza, he had the same reaction you might have had.

“I’m just like anyone else — it’s pretty surprising,” Lohse said. “This seemingly came out of the blue, but in a good way.”

Garza agreed to a four-year, $52 million contract that represents the richest deal for a free agent in Brewers history. He joins Lohse(who signed for three years and $33 million last March) and Yovani Gallardo atop a starting rotation that also figures to include right-handers Marco Estrada and Wily Peralta. Tyler Thornburg, who was previously penciled in as the No. 5 starter, now fits in among a group of younger pitchers representing depth, with Johnny Hellweg, Jimmy Nelson and recently-acquired left-hander Will Smith.

“I know it stinks for one of the young guys who was going to be competing for that extra spot, but they’ll have their opportunities,” Lohse said. “This helps out the rotation a lot, I think. It’s a good thing for us.”

Lohse met Garza at Minnesota Twins Spring Training camp in 2006, after the Twins had made Garza a first-round Draft pick. They never did play together; Lohse was traded to the Reds in July, just before Garza was promoted for his big league debut.

But they have crossed paths as opponents over the years, Lohse said.

“It’s one of those things where you respect what the guy does out there because he’s a good competitor,” Lohse said. “He’s got great stuff. Now that he’s a teammate, you hope he has figured out the health aspect of it and can stay healthy and help us out every five days. He’s a very animated guy out there, and if you can control that, it works for you.”

Does the deal change his outlook for the 2014 Brewers?

“I just know that any time you sign one of the top starters on the market, it sends a message to the players, and hopefully the fans, that you’re not going to lay down,” Lohse said. “We’re going to try to do some things. I think we’ve got a sneaky shot. We have some good young guys, and if [Ryan] Braun can bounce back and Aramis [Ramirez] can stay healthy, and the young guys who got experience last year can build on that experience, we’ve got a legit shot.

“It boils down to how well our rotation does keeping us in games. If we can build on what we did in the second half last year, and not get off to a slow start, I think we can surprise some people. I don’t want to go out there and make statements that we’re going to be in the playoffs. I’d rather be that team that people kind of get surprised by at the end of the season, like, ‘Wow, they’re in the hunt.’ I want to be a team that other teams don’t want to play.”

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