MILWAUKEE -- Maybe the Chicago Cubs don’t need as much bullpen help as we thought. They’ve already added lefty Mike Montgomery, and now -- in a sense -- they’ve added a righty in the form of Carl Edwards Jr. He didn’t break camp with the team, but Edwards might very well finish the season with them, perhaps even performing a big role in the playoff push.
“That’s something I can’t say right now,” Edwards said after the Cubs' 5-2 win over the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday. “My thing is what’s going on right now. The present. I don’t know what the future holds.
“My goal was to get back up here and stay up here.”
Edwards isn’t going anywhere, as he had another good outing on Friday night. Entering the game with Chicago leading 4-2 with a runner on second base and no outs, Edwards faced the heart of the Brewers' order. A groundout and two strikeouts later, he was back in the dugout while Ryan Braun, Scooter Gennett and Jonathan Lucroy probably were left wondering, “Who is this stringbean?”
“I thought the turning point was CJ [Carl Edwards],” manager Joe Maddon said. “The middle-innings closer. That’s the classic example of the impact it can have on a game.”
To review, Edwards was acquired in a midseason deal in 2013 with the Texas Rangers in exchange for pitcher Matt Garza. Edwards is famously known for being extremely thin; he's listed at 6-foot-3, 170 pounds.
His eating habits were a big topic when he came over from the Rangers, but his stuff was never up for debate. It’s nasty -- he’ll reach 95-96 mph on his fastball with some nice late zip. Being moved to the bullpen last year has dismissed the conversation over his stamina to go six or seven innings, and now he can let it fly, as he did on Friday.
“He weighs about 140 pounds and he can attack a ton worth of weight,” said Jason Hammel, Friday’s winner. “Impressive to watch him do his thing.”
Edwards is a cool customer with a fun personality, but he has kept to himself in his latest stint in the big leagues. After the game, he dressed at his locker, put on his backpack and addressed reporters in a colorful shirt with roses on it -- a shirt that Maddon complimented him on before the game.
“For me, I just go out there and tell myself ‘go right after guys,’” Edwards said. “Let the outcomes be the outcomes. It’s trusting everything. Their decision, my decision and my location of pitches.
“Very mellow, very humble. I’m not overthinking things right now. I’m staying in my lane. When they call my number, I’m just doing my job.”
And lately, he has been doing a heck of a job; the situations he’s thrust into are becoming more important. He started on mop-up duty, but he has progressed to the point of basically taking Justin Grimm’s job in those important middle innings. In 13 innings over 12 appearances, Edwards has given up just six hits and four walks, producing a 2.08 ERA.
“I believe he can sustain what he’s doing up to this point,” Maddon said. “I think we have to be prudent. If you try and go to the well too often, eventually in September, he’ll be dragging out there. As much as you would like to play with that toy, you might have to leave him in the toy box.”
Which means the Cubs still might need bullpen help. In fact, the sample size is too small -- and projecting what Edwards could look like well after the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline might be too risky. And in a sense, if he is indeed replacing Grimm in a key role, then the Cubs haven’t added anyone as much as they’ve swapped one reliever for another.
“Stuff wise, yeah,” Hammel said. “Just the experience, really. That’s all he needs. The later in the game you go, a little harder it gets, but he definitely has the stuff. And execution is better. And he’s not afraid.”
Maddon said he doesn’t want to regularly use Edwards on back-to-back days just yet, but in terms of high-leverage situations, he is already there.
“[He’s] still quiet,” Maddon said. “I know he feels like he belongs here. He’s surrounded by a bunch of veteran guys. He's doing everything right.
“He even had a cool shirt.”