Carl Edwards Jr.’s return bumps Cub pen to 8, where it could stay

A bullpen that struggled over the weekend in the sweep against the Pirates got its best pitcher back Monday when Carl Edwards Jr. returned from the bereavement list.

“Having him back is definitely going to make a big difference,” manager Joe Maddon said. “He’s obviously well rested. For the most part I think everybody’s back in decent order right now.”

In the short term, Edwards’ return after a death in the family means an extra man in the bullpen for the Cubs, who placed infielder Tommy La Stella on the bereavement list following the death of his grandmother.

That buys the Cubs up to seven days before they’ll have to make another move. And Maddon suggested the eight-man bullpen might stick around.

Carl Edwards Jr.

“We’re considering it. It’s definitely a possibility,” said Maddon, who seemed to be leaning toward opening the season with the larger pitching staff until deciding to keep both La Stella and outfielder Matt Szczur.

The bullpen has blown half of its save opportunities during the first two weeks of the season, including leads in all three games against the Pirates, and hasn’t come close to meeting expectations.

“Looking at what’s been going on more recently and being something we pondered for spring training also, it’s definitely being discussed,” Maddon said of the eight-man bullpen.

The Cubs activated left-hander Brian Duensing (back spasms) from the disabled list for the Pirates series when Edwards left.

Before that, the Cubs were 4-1 in games that Edwards pitched, and he hadn’t allowed a run.

Because he has minor-league options (and Szczur doesn’t), La Stella could be the odd-man out if the Cubs decide to go with the extra pitcher.

“Getting Carl back really helps at the backside of the whole thing,” Maddon said. “I thought Duensing looked really good. Koji [Uehara’s] been outstanding. I’m honestly not concerned at all.

“Part of it is just spread them out, get them in comfortable roles, make sure we don’t overuse anybody. I don’t think we have to this point, but I don’t want to. I like the way our guys look right now. We’ve just got to get them out there at the right times.”

Royal treatment

The Royals’ scheduled off day
Monday gave the Cubs the opportunity to fly in three of last year’s players to receive their World Series rings in a ceremony before Monday’s game: outfielder Jorge Soler and pitchers Jason Hammel and Travis Wood.

Wood was the longest tenured member of the champion Cubs team before signing with the Royals as a free agent. Wood was traded to the Cubs for Sean Marshall in a four-player deal with the Reds in one of Theo Epstein’s first trades in Chicago.

Then he and Anthony Rizzo became part of that 101-loss team in 2012 before surviving to contribute to last year’s 103-win season and championship.

“It was a long journey,” Wood said. “To be able to still be around to see the payoff is something I’ll cherish.”

Follow me on Twitter @GDubCub.

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

(L-R) Hammel, Soler, Wood

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