Cubs

Carl Edwards Jr. could help Cubs down the stretch

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Carl Edwards Jr. could help Cubs down the stretch

The Cubs think Carl Edwards Jr. could become a weapon out of their bullpen and contribute to a playoff contender in September.

“I certainly hope so,” Jason McLeod said Thursday at Wrigley Field. “He’s put himself in the position to do it.”

McLeod – the senior vice president who oversees scouting and player development – believes Edwards has shown enough during this transition season at Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa.

[MORE: Cubs VP Jason McLeod could become in-demand GM candidate]

Edwards – who is dealing with a blister on his right hand and anticipating the birth of his child – has gone 3-1 with a 3.03 ERA in 21 relief appearances for Iowa. 

“He’s taken to this role pretty well,” McLeod said. “It took him a little while to get used to it. We put him on a structured program early at Tennessee. Since he’s been in Iowa, we’ve kind of taken the reins off him a little bit.”

Edwards has 37 strikeouts – and 24 walks – through 29-plus innings with Iowa. That could make him tempting to use out of the bullpen – or difficult to trust in big situations.   

“That’s been an issue with him this year,” McLeod said. “He’s had a couple of real lemon outings when some of those walk totals have spiked. But at the same time, it’s still not where he (needs it) to be consistently effectively up here.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

“The stuff is so good that he’s still getting away with (it), getting out Triple-A hitters and getting swings-and-misses. He’s aware of it. He knows he’s going to have to work on locating his heater down in the zone. But it’s a pretty special fastball. He’s got the big curveball behind it. It’s been effective for him. And hopefully he just stays on this trajectory.”

The Cubs made Edwards a centerpiece to the Matt Garza trade with the Texas Rangers before the 2013 deadline. Edwards had worked almost exclusively as a starter until this season, beginning the year as Baseball America’s No. 38 overall prospect.

“When the stuff’s in the zone, it’s really hard to hit,” McLeod said. “He’s proven his stuff will play against these guys. It’s just the command.”

Addison Russell is so over 2017: 'That's last year, don't want to talk about that'

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USA TODAY

Addison Russell is so over 2017: 'That's last year, don't want to talk about that'

MESA, Ariz. — “That’s last year, don’t want to talk about that.”

In other words, Addison Russell is so over 2017.

The Cubs shortstop went through a lot last year. He dealt with injuries that affected his foot and shoulder. He had a well-documented off-the-field issue involving an accusation of domestic abuse, which sparked an investigation by Major League Baseball. And then came the trade speculation.

The hot stove season rarely leaves any player completely out of online trade discussion. But after Theo Epstein admitted there was a possibility the Cubs could trade away one or more young position players to bolster the starting rotation, well, Russell’s name came up.

And he saw it.

“There was a lot of trade talk,” Russell said Saturday. “My initial thoughts were, I hope it doesn’t happen, but wherever I go, I’m going to try to bring what I bring to the table here. It’s a good thing that it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m happy being in a Cubs uniform, I want to be in a Cubs uniform, for sure. But there was some talk out there. If I got traded, then I got traded, but that’s not the case.”

No, it’s not, as the Cubs solved those pitching questions with free-agent spending, bringing in Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood to replace the departed Jake Arrieta and John Lackey. It means Russell, along with oft-discussed names like Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ and Javy Baez, are all still Cubs.

While the outside world might have expected one of those guys to be moved in some sort of blockbuster trade for Chris Archer or some other All-Star arm, the Cubs’ young core remains intact, another reason why they’re as much a favorite to win the World Series as any team out there.

“I’m really not surprised. The core is still here. Who would want to break that up? It’s a beautiful thing,” Russell said. “Javy and I in the middle. Schwarber, sometimes playing catcher but mainly outfield. And then (Kris Bryant) over there in the hot corner, and of course (Anthony) Rizzo at first. You’ve got a Gold Glover in right field (Jason Heyward). It’s really hard to break that up.

“When you do break that down on paper, we’ve got a lineup that could stack up with the best.”

This winter has been about moving on for Russell, who said he’s spent months working to strengthen his foot and shoulder after they limited him to 110 games last season, the fewest he played in his first three big league campaigns.

And so for Russell, the formula for returning to his 2016 levels of offensive aptitude isn’t a difficult one: stay on the field.

“Especially with the injuries, I definitely wanted to showcase some more of my talent last year than I displayed,” Russell said. “So going into this year, it’s mainly just keeping a good mental — just staying level headed. And also staying healthy and producing and being out there on the field.

“Next step for me, really just staying out there on the field. I really want to see what I can do as far as helping the team if I can stay healthy for a full season. I think if I just stay out there on the field, I’m going to produce.”

While the decrease in being on the field meant lower numbers from a “counting” standpoint — the drop from 21 homers in 2016 to 12 last year, the drop from 95 RBIs to 43 can in part be attributed to the lower number of games — certain rate stats looked different, too. His on-base percentage dropped from .321 in 2016 to .304 last year.

Russell also struggled during the postseason, picking up just six hits in 36 plate appearances in series against the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers. He struck out 13 times in 10 postseason games.

Of course, he wasn’t alone. That World Series hangover was team-wide throughout the first half of the season. And even though the Cubs scored 824 runs during the regular season, the second most in the National League and the fourth most in baseball, plenty of guys had their offensive struggles: Schwarber, Heyward and Ben Zobrist, to name a few.

“You can’t take anything for granted. So whenever you win a World Series or you do something good, you just have to live in the moment,” Russell said. “It was a tough season last year because we were coming off winning the World Series and the World Series hangover and all that. This year, we had a couple months off, a couple extra weeks off, and I think a lot of guys took advantage of that. I know I did. And now that we’re here in spring training, we’re going to get back at it.”

Cubs Talk Podcast: Discussing 5-man unit and where Montgomery fits into Cubs' plans

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Discussing 5-man unit and where Montgomery fits into Cubs' plans

Jon Lester has arrived at Cubs camp, and he’s pleased with the new-look rotation full of potential aces. Kelly Crull and Vinnie Duber discuss the 5-man unit, and where Mike Montgomery fits into the Cubs’ plans.

Plus, Kelly and Vinnie talk Jason Heyward and Kyle Schwarber, along with the continuing free agent stalemate surrounding Jake Arrieta.

Listen to the full Cubs Talk Podcast right here: