Fixing Cubs’ bullpen all about Carl Edwards Jr. finding ‘write’ stuff
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Getting the Cubs’ bullpen out of its slump could be as simple as finding Carl Edwards Jr. a muse.
Or a thesaurus.
“It’s funny,” Edwards said. “It’s like if you were writing, and all of a sudden you wanted to say something and you just forgot what you wanted to write about, and then you’re just looking around like, ‘I know I had something on my mind, but I just forgot.’ ”
So the reason the most important pitcher in the Cubs’ bullpen is having trouble throwing strikes this month is . . . writer’s block?
“That’s just how I feel,” Edwards said. “I’ve been doing something forever, and it’s just like, ‘What just happened?’ But at the same time, it comes back to you. I just feel it’s going to come back to me soon.”
He’d better hope so, for his and the team’s sake.
“We need to get Carl straightened out; the symmetry of the bullpen’s different without him,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Edwards, the hard-throwing right-hander with closer ability but occasional command problems.
That “symmetry” is especially fragile with closer Brandon Morrow out indefinitely. Even if he’s back by the playoffs, his workload is a handle-with-care proposition.
That’s why Edwards was called in with two on and two out in a tie game in the sixth inning Monday night against the Brewers. It’s also why Maddon won’t hesitate to put him right back out in another critical spot even after Edwards allowed the winning run to score on a first-pitch wild pitch, then walked the first batter he faced.
“Here’s the thing: Going into October, we’re looking for a positive result,” Maddon said. “I cannot even imagine doing well in October without him. So you’ve got to get the guy right. You don’t run away from that kind of talent.”
The success of the Cubs’ top-five bullpen, which has struggled lately, just might depend on it. Over the Cubs’ previous 12 games through Monday, the bullpen had a 5.16 ERA with 4.1 walks per nine innings. It was even worse over the 2-5 slide the Cubs rode into Tuesday night: 6.26 with 6.6 walks per nine innings, spanning 27„ innings.
Edwards, the Cubs’ top strikeout pitcher (12 per nine innings), has at least one walk in five consecutive appearances, working just 1‰ innings this month in those five outings. He also struck out Christian Yelich, Jesus Aguilar and Curtis Granderson in high-leverage spots among his four strikeouts in that stretch.
“When he’s actually throwing the ball over the plate, the results have been good,” Maddon said. “We’ve just got to get him more consistently back in the zone.”
Maddon said it’s more mindset than mechanics. Edwards said he feels strong physically but that he might be overthinking at times. He knows what Maddon means when he talks about his significance to the Cubs’ bullpen vision for October.
“At the same time, I can only do so much,” said Edwards, who has been through it before and knows how he got through it then. “I just went out and basically told myself I’m going to continue to have fun and don’t let the roller coaster keep rolling. It’s got to stop one day.”
One step closer
Morrow (bone bruise, elbow) is expected to throw from a mound again Wednesday, his first bullpen session since a light 25-pitch effort Sunday. The Cubs remain hopeful he has enough time to return strong enough to contribute before the playoffs.
Kyle Schwarber still is considered a day-to-day lineup decision and was not available off the bench Tuesday. He has started only once since aggravating his back on a slide Sept. 5 at Milwaukee.