Carl Edwards Jr.

Cubs could get another bullpen boost soon as Carl Edwards Jr. nears return

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USA TODAY

Cubs could get another bullpen boost soon as Carl Edwards Jr. nears return

Cole Hamels is still likely more than a week away from returning, but the Cubs could get another arm back soon to help augment the pitching staff.

Carl Edwards Jr. threw another outing Tuesday night with Triple-A Iowa, his fourth appearance on this latest rehab assignment while recovering from a left thoracic strain. 

The 27-year-old righty allowed two hits and a walk in a scoreless inning, notching all three outs on strikeouts. He also pitched Saturday and on July 1st and 4th before Iowa also hit their midseason break. He last pitched in the big leagues on June 9.

"CJ's progressing well," Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said. "He's feeling better every time out. Good CJ stuff [Tuesday] — fastball's got some carry, some cut to it. He's feeling good."

As for what comes next, the Cubs don't have a plan in place yet. That will depend on how Edwards continues to feel after his latest outing.

"The one thing with him has been the rebound," Hottovy said. "We talk about the recovery that next day, he's had a couple days where he's like, 'yeah I feel good.' And a couple days where it's like, 'ah, I need another day.' 

"So that's always a thing you want to do with relievers is make sure their recovery and their rebound is there. The last thing you want to do have a guy come up and he pitches and then you can't use him for 2 or 3 days. We just gotta make sure we hit all those checkpoints as well."

Edwards got off to a rough start and struggled toward the end of the 2018 season, but he's a huge piece to the Cubs bullpen puzzle and he was dynamic upon his return from minor-league demotion earlier this year.

From his first outing after being called back up (May 6) until the injury hit (June 9), Edwards surrendered only 3 earned runs on 4 hits and 3 walks against 15 strikeouts in 13.1 innings — good for a 2.03 ERA and 0.525 WHIP.

As the Cubs look to bolster their bullpen ahead of the MLB trade deadline in two weeks, Edwards looms as another addition given his ability to neutralize both right-handed and left-handed hitters and induce weak contact when he's on.

Of course, there's obviously some inherent risk in counting on Edwards to be a reliable piece of the bullpen given the way the last couple years have gone. But if he's healthy and pitching the way he had for a full month before the injury, that's a nice option the Cubs can fold into their bullpen alongside Craig Kimbrel, Pedro Strop, Steve Cishek, Brandon Kintzler and Kyle Ryan.

Cubs moving toward an enviable spot in arms race

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AP

Cubs moving toward an enviable spot in arms race

The Cubs are approaching a territory where they almost have *too much* pitching.

That concept doesn't actually exist, of course — especially for a team expecting to remain in a pennant race and more than half the season remaining on the schedule.

But the Cubs will likely have difficult decisions to make in the near future as Craig Kimbrel nears his Chicago debut while a trio of veteran arms inch closer to a return from their respective injuries.

Kyle Hendricks went on the injured list less than a week ago after experiencing shoulder inflammation following his start in Los Angeles, but he played catch Friday.

"The initial reports are that he's feeling good, but we're not ready to talk through a plan yet or a progression," GM Jed Hoyer said. "But we're happy the initial shutdown has been good. We just want to get him back on a mound as the dominant Kyle Hendricks and not rush him back. There's no reason to do that this time of year."

Hendricks has an impingement in his shoulder, but the Cubs feel confident the inflammation will go away and he'll be back to normal soon. They'll see how he feels after Friday's throwing session and the full shoulder workout he went through Thursday before they make a determination on his next step.

But it still seems unlikely Hendricks will be available to take the ball the next time his spot is due up in the rotation Tuesday, so Adbert Alzolay and Tyler Chatwood remain in contention to fill that start.

Carl Edwards Jr. (back) is nearing the end of his IL stint and offseason signing Tony Barnette seems to have finally moved past the shoulder issue that has delayed his Cubs debut and he's been pitching well in 8 outings for Triple-A Iowa this month (only 1 hit and 1 walk allowed in 7.1 scoreless innings).

"He's been doing well — hearing good stuff right now," Joe Maddon said of Barnette. "What I like is you're seeing this proliferation of arms right now. Everything's building up in a good way 'cause stuff's gonna happen. You can't have enough of that. So the fact that he's doing so well is very encouraging also."

Eventually, the Cubs may have to select a 13-man pitching staff from this group of arms:

Jon Lester
Cole Hamels
Kyle Hendricks
Yu Darvish
Jose Quintana
Tyler Chatwood
Adbert Alzolay
Mike Montgomery
Tony Barnette
Kyle Ryan
Brad Brach
Carl Edwards Jr.
Brandon Kintzler
Steve Cishek
Pedro Strop
Craig Kimbrel

And that's not even including injured veterans Brandon Morrow and Xavier Cedeno or minor-league options like Dillon Maples and Rowan Wick or any other pitcher the front office acquires before the trade deadline.

But of course, baseball has a way of solving those problems for teams whether due to injury or ineffectiveness. 

Hoyer, Maddon and Theo Epstein have been discussing this exact roster crunch for a little while now, including another conversation Thursday night after Alzolay's debut. When Hendricks returns, the Cubs could go with a six-man rotation and slot Alzolay in there as another arm, or they could fold the rookie into the bullpen in some capacity.

Either way, it will be a good problem to have for the Cubs because it will mean Alzolay has forced the issue to remain in the big leagues. 

Right now, the first corresponding move may be simple in that the Cubs could send Wick back to the minors to clear up a spot in the bullpen for Kimbrel. But what happens when Edwards and Hendricks return? What about when Barnette's rehab timeline is up at the end of the month? 

That's what the front office and coaching staff is trying to determine right now.

"We got a nice thing going on conversationally where you got a lot of really good input and then you sprinkle in the analytical component of it also," Maddon said. "I have my ideas, but when it comes to that stuff, I really like the discussion because somebody's gonna have a different thought than you've had and all of a sudden, you come to the right conclusion.

"We're pretty good at that, I think. ... Moving it forward, I just have a lot of confidence in the group discussion."

Cubs place Carl Edwards Jr. on 10-day IL with left thoracic strain

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USA TODAY

Cubs place Carl Edwards Jr. on 10-day IL with left thoracic strain

The west coast has not been kind to Cubs relievers.

A day after Steve Cishek suffered a bizzare injury playing long toss, the Cubs placed Carl Edwards Jr. on the 10-day injured list (retroactive to June 10) with a left thoracic strain. In a corresponding move, the Cubs called up left-handed reliever Tim Collins from Triple-A Iowa.

Edwards' injury comes on the heels of one of his best stretches on a big league mound in 2019. While his ERA stands at 5.40, he has pitched much better since returning from a Triple-A Iowa on May 6. Edwards holds a 2.02 ERA in 13 1/3 innings over that span. striking out 15 batters compared to just three walks. Opponents are hitting just .093 against him during that stretch.

Collins will be available for the Cubs on Thursday, as the Iowa Cubs are in the midst of a three-game series in nearby Fresno. While seeing Edwards go down is not ideal for the Cubs, Collins will add another lefty to the bullpen against a Dodgers lineup that hits righties (.269/.350/.479) better than lefties (.251/.337/.425).

In five games with the Cubs this season, Collins holds a 3.86 ERA, allowing two runs on seven hits in 4 2/3 innings.

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