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.
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.
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.”