Cubs see Carl Edwards Jr.'s future in the bullpen


Cubs see Carl Edwards Jr.'s future in the bullpen

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Cubs are ticketing Carl Edwards Jr. for Triple-A Iowa’s bullpen, hoping he can someday give manager Joe Maddon a different look for the late innings.

The Cubs cut their spring roster to 45 players before Friday’s game against the White Sox at Camelback Ranch, optioning Edwards, right-hander Pierce Johnson, lefty C.J. Riefenhauser, infielder Arismendy Alcantara and catcher Willson Contreras to Iowa.

The Cubs also optioned third baseman Jeimer Candelario to Double-A Tennessee and assigned five more players to minor-league camp: right-handers Stephen Fife, Felix Pena and Drew Rucinski; lefty Edgar Olmos; and catcher Taylor Davis.

[SHOP: Gear up for the 2016 season, Cubs fans!]

In the summer of 2013, the Cubs made Edwards the centerpiece to the Matt Garza trade with the Texas Rangers, hoping he could eventually grow into a frontline starter. Edwards is now listed at 6-foot-3 and 170 pounds, but his future might be in the bullpen with Justin Grimm and Neil Ramirez, two other pitchers from that Texas deal.   

“Part of it was durability or endurance,” Maddon said. “Plus, I think people just potentially see a dynamic relief pitcher right there. I do, too. I like it.” 

Edwards had been Baseball America’s No. 38 overall prospect heading into last season. The Cubs didn’t push him too hard after a strained right shoulder limited him to 48 innings in 2014.

[MORE: Joe Maddon expects Cubs to police their own clubhouse

Edwards has 369 strikeouts through 292-plus career innings in the minors, making his big-league debut last September and going along for the ride in the playoffs. Next stop: Iowa. 

“It’s the right place for him right now,” Maddon said. “He’s still not fully developed as a major-league player. And when you get to be a good team on the major-league level, that’s what happens to talented guys in the minor leagues. 

"When you’re not so good at the major-league level, guys like that may be pushed to you sooner. So when you’re able to backlog talent like that — and permit them to truly get ripe on the vine — that benefits everybody.”

Cubs map out next steps for closer Craig Kimbrel

Cubs map out next steps for closer Craig Kimbrel

Craig Kimbrel is one step closer to joining the Cubs bullpen.

According to Patrick Mooney of The Athletic, Kimbrel will join Triple-A Iowa and make his first appearance on Tuesday, against the Sacramento River Cats.

While the Cubs officially signed him on June 7, Kimbrel has yet to pitch in actual games. The 31-year-old has been in a condensed spring training program at the Cubs' Arizona complex, throwing live batting practice on both Thursday and Saturday.

The Cubs haven't revealed an official timeline for Kimbrel to join the 25-man roster, as they are basing things off of how he feels. The expectation is he will pitch in about five games with Iowa before joining the Cubs. However, both Theo Epstein and Kimbrel acknowledged how the goal isn't to rush the closer back into MLB action.

"We're not gonna rush it," Epstein said. "It's gonna be tempting to get him here as soon as possible, but we're trying to plan this thing the right way so that he could be in a position to succeed not just immediately but in October. That's gonna be our guiding principle as we go."

"We sat down and put a gameplan together — something to work off of," Kimbrel said. "But at the end of the day, it's based off how I recover, how I get ready. This isn't about getting back on the field as fast as I can. This is about being the best that I can be in October and down the stretch and doing what I came here to do for this team."

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Cubs games easily on your device.

Yu Darvish and Cubs pull off dramatic comeback win over Dodgers

Yu Darvish and Cubs pull off dramatic comeback win over Dodgers

There were some added stakes to Saturday night’s Cubs-Dodgers matchup. Darvish made his first start at Dodger Stadium since his infamous Game 7 loss in the 2017 World Series, looking for a great effort in front of a fan base that had their up-and-downs in terms of their relationship with him. He (maybe) took a small jab at the Dodgers before the game had even started, telling the Los Angeles Times that he wasn't worried about being booed because “the Dodgers don't have many fans here in the first three innings, so maybe it will be on the quieter side.”

Well Dodgers faithful certainly got the message and made sure to let Darvish hear it.

However, Darvish got the last laugh on Saturday night. He pitched a stellar seven innings. Over those seven innings, Darvish gave up 1 ER on 2 hits and also notched 10 strikeouts.

Darvish has been hitting his stride as of late, maintaining a 2.96 ERA over his last four starts.

All of that being said, it would be remiss of me not to mention the contributions of Darvish’s teammates. His great outing helped keep the Cubs in the game, but the gutsy performances of Anthony Rizzo and Pedro Strop are what won the contest.

Dodgers All-Star relief pitcher Kenley Jansen had a 10-game scoreless streak coming into Saturday night, but one swing of Rizzo’s bat was all that was needed to restore balance to the everlasting battle of pitcher versus hitter. After Jansen hit Kris Bryant with a pitch to put him on base, Rizzo activated “clutch mode”, mashing a 400-foot bomb out to right field.

Though small, Saturday night’s homer gives Rizzo a three-game hitting streak, perhaps forecasting that things are trending  upwards for the first baseman as the Cubs look to close out the series against the Dodgers with a win on Sunday night. And not to be left out of the fun, Pedro Strop came in to face the Justin Turner, MVP hopeful Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy and Matt Beaty to nail down the save.

Never afraid of high-pressure moments, Stop came through big time.

Strop got a ground out from Turner, struck out Bellinger and Beaty in his 15-pitch save effort. This was a much-needed win for the Cubs, who have well-documented struggles on the road. As they look to split the four-game set with the Dodgers on Sunday night, the Cubs can be pleased with their fight this week.

Saturday’s win over the Dodgers was the Cubs first win of the season after trailing through six innings, as they were 0-23 in such situations prior to the victory. Amid a season that has been fraught with injury and general roster construction concerns, it was wonderful to see the Cubs pull out a tough win lead by the much-maligned Darvish and the never-quit attitude of his teammates.