Cubs

Cubs won't back off Carl Edwards Jr. as he searches for 'that loving feeling'

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AP

Cubs won't back off Carl Edwards Jr. as he searches for 'that loving feeling'

Joe Maddon called his shot before Friday's game, all but telegraphing that he intended to go right back to Carl Edwards Jr. that afternoon against the Nationals.

That's exactly how it played out, too, as Edwards came on in the eighth inning of the Cubs' 4-2 loss to Washington Friday and proceeded to load the bases with nobody out.

Edwards walked a pair of batters Thursday against the Arizona Diamondbacks, getting the hook from Maddon after only those two hitters.

Maddon went right back to his young flamethrower Friday, who began the inning by walking Howie Kendrick before giving up soft singles to Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy and creating another Danger Zone for the Cubs.

But Maddon stayed put in the third-base dugout this time and Edwards wound up getting out of the inning with only one run allowed, on a sacrifice fly from Anthony Rendon to right field.

That's exactly the spot Edwards typically works — late innings, high-leverage against the other team's heart of the order. In this specific case, Maddon couldn't turn to southpaws Justin Wilson, Brian Duensing or Mike Montgomery given their recent usage and he did not want to put newly-promoted Rob Zastryzny into the game in that spot.

It was Edwards or bust.

"I wanted to [get him back out there], but that was still a good spot for him," Maddon said. "I wasn't forcing it. I kinda liked it. We were down by a run. That part of the batting order is the kind that he normally gets to pitch against, so it's really just not trying to pitch [Pedro] Strop and [Hector] Rondon again. 

"It really wasn't a Rob Z slot. The leadoff walk got him again, otherwise he actually threw the ball extremely well."

The Harper and Murphy hits came off the bat at 84.6 mph and 79.8 mph, respectively, so it's not like Edwards was getting rocked. 

But that now makes 13 walks in the last 11 innings for Edwards, even though he's only allowed five hits in that span. The 25-year-old has dished out 29 free passes in 44 innings this year and saw his season ERA climb above 3.00 Friday for the first time this season.

"Command issues," Maddon said. "Looks like a lot of pulling away from righties. And that's what seems to get him in trouble. Pulled and elevated today.

"...By no means is it an overworked issue. It's a self-confidence issue. I don't want to keep putting him out there [to fail]. This guy's good. He's one of the best young relief pitchers in the National League, so you gotta keep putting him out there until he gets that loving feeling back."

Edwards remains among the toughest pitchers in baseball to square up for hitters, as the average exit velocity off his pitches sits at 82.5 mph, just slightly above Andrew Miller (81 mph), one of the top relievers in the game today who emerged as a dynamic force in the playoffs last fall with the Cleveland Indians.

Even with the rough outings of late, Edwards still has a 3.07 ERA and 1.09 WHIP with 63 strikeouts in 44 innings.

When he came out to the mound to pull Edwards Thursday against Arizona, Maddon admitted he didn't know where the ball was going to go at that point and wanted to ensure incoming reliever Justin Wilson wouldn't have to pitch with the bases loaded. (Though that ended up happening anyway as Wilson gave up a hit to the first batter he faced.)

But Maddon also said there would be other situations where Edwards would get the opportunity to pitch out of the mess he caused.

Like Friday, for example.

"I still have all the faith in the world in the guy," Maddon said. "...It's just about the walk with him. I think we can get around or beyond that because his stuff is still outstanding. I have not lost confidence.

"I don't have a solid answer [for the control issues]. He's been missing the plate; I agree. It seems like he's been away, away from the right-hander primarily. So we'll just try to figure out different ways to get him back in the zone. But talent-wise, he's fine."

CubsTalk Podcast: Dreaming on Christian Yelich and how Boras navigates a slow market

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AP

CubsTalk Podcast: Dreaming on Christian Yelich and how Boras navigates a slow market

Kelly Crull and Tony Andracki discuss the impact of the Marlins' trades and daydream on how Christian Yelich would be a perfect fit atop the Cubs order if Miami ever decided to move him. Plus, where do the Cubs stand with free agent pitchers and is a Wade Davis return still possible?

Crull also chats 1-on-1 with MLB super-agent Scott Boras about Jake Arrieta's value and how to navigate a slow-moving free agent market.

Listen to the entire podcast here:

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Now that Cubs have added some arms, what's their next move

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Now that Cubs have added some arms, what's their next move

David Haugh (Chicago Tribune), Adam Jahns (Chicago Sun-Times) and Mark Carman (WGN Radio/Fansided) join Luke Stuckmeyer on the panel. The Cubs are adding arms to the pitching staff, so what’s their next move? And what should they do with Kyle Schwarber? Jeff Passan from Yahoo! joins the guys from the Winter Meetings.

Plus, the guys discuss if Aaron Rodgers will lead the Packers to the playoffs and if Mitchell Trubisky can have another big game Saturday in Detroit.