Codi Heuer stood in the outfield between the two bullpens at Guaranteed Rate Field, chatting with old pals.
Friday marked Heuer’s return to the South Side for the first time since the Sox shipped him to the Cubs at the trade deadline. Although it felt different being back, it didn’t feel wrong.
“It’s awesome,” Heuer said. “It's a little weird being in a different clubhouse, but it's a cool experience for sure.”
After an 11-game losing streak shifted them from buyers to sellers at the trade deadline, the Cubs traded Craig Kimbrel to the White Sox.
In return, they received Nick Madrigal and Heuer, a guy with a lot of club control who could be their ninth-inning guy down the line — certainly if first impressions are anything.
All Heuer has done with the Cubs is outperform the future Hall of Fame closer they gave up for him. Entering Sunday, he held a 1.29 ERA through 12 appearances on the North Side, compared to Kimbrel's 7.15 ERA through 12 appearances with the Sox.
Heuer’s early results with the Cubs have been impressive. But outsiders raved about the 25-year-old even before he put on his new uniform.
“He’s a Wichita State guy,” said Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy, a fellow Wichita State alum. "All my Wichita State people were calling me and texting me as soon as we got him, saying I'd love him.”
He’s lived up to the assessment. Heuer had a strong rookie season with the White Sox in 2020 but struggled this season before the trade. His hunger to build off last season and continue to get better — all while wanting the ball in high-leverage spots — has stood out to Hottovy.
“His demeanor is great,” Hottovy said. “He's cool and calm and collected. He likes the ball in big moments, and he's not afraid of those.
“He's got the makings of being a really good back-end bullpen piece for us for a long time. His willingness to continue to improve through that process and work on new things and try new things that we've pushed on him has potential to make him that much better.
“I think he's hungry for that and he wants it.”
Chicago’s two baseball teams met this weekend headed in opposite directions. As the Sox coast to a division title, the Cubs are fourth in the NL Central.
As much as it could be a reminder of what might have been in October for Heuer, he’s happy for his old teammates.
“I made a lot of great relationships over there,” said Heuer, who got the final two outs in Saturday’s Cubs win. “I have a lot of great memories over there, a lot of great memories in this stadium.
“The chemistry over there is great — great team — so that's awesome on their part.”
But his focus is on the North Side, which those old teammates view as a great opportunity for him.
“I'm excited for what the future holds here,” Heuer said. “They see a lot of value in me and that's been awesome. They've been nothing but welcoming to me on this side. It's been awesome so far.”
Perhaps a future where Heuer, who as a kid watched and looked up to Kimbrel, is locking down the ninth inning for the Cubs. Or at least a significant role in the late innings.
“He’s got a lot of the ingredients that need to be there for guys to take over late in games,” Hottovy said. “Definitely somebody we're going to keep putting in those situations and watch him thrive.
“A lot of that stuff will play out as the years go by, but he's definitely somebody we see as a high leverage, back-end piece for sure.”