Cubs’ Carl Edwards Jr. is all-in on fastballs, fast-food burgers


MESA, Ariz. — Carl Edwards Jr.
sat alone on a billowing, high-backed leather couch in the visitor’s clubhouse in Cleveland after Game 6 of the World Series last November. He was shirtless, the couch seemingly enveloping his scrawny torso, and working over a plate of fried chicken with a soaring mound of mashed potatoes.

About 10 feet away, fellow Cubs pitchers including Game 6 winner Jake Arrieta and Game 7 starter Kyle Hendricks sat around a table forking mouthfuls of kale. A superfood, they call it, befitting a sculpted superstar.

“I don’t know why they eat that stuff,” Edwards said, resembling a pipe cleaner in a room full of tire irons.

Carl Edwards Jr. celebrates the Cubs' Game 7 World Series victory in Cleveland.

As for his own meal?

“Man, I’m trying to get big like them,” he said, “so I can pitch in the big games like them.”

Twenty-four hours later, of course, Edwards did just that, taking the ball to start the 10th inning of the Cubs’ 8-7 victory over the Indians. The 25-year-old rookie recorded two outs before getting into some trouble and giving way to Mike Montgomery, who closed the deal.

But Edwards didn’t blow like a feather in the wind in that huge moment. He stood as tall and strong as a man of his constitution — what are we talking, 160 pounds? — could. Without those two outs, it’s a different world. For that, he’s a Cubs hero.

Heading into 2017, Edwards is a hard-throwing closer-in-the-making with stuff no one takes lightly.

“C.J.?” Montgomery said. “C.J. is awesome.”

And yet, he sure looks the same. Has he gotten any bigger? Any bigger at all?

“Yeah,” Edwards said. “Well, no. I don’t know. I guess not. But I eat a lot.”

Which begs the kind of question that seems relevant only in the long, drawn-out days of spring training: So, what have you been eating?

“I was a big McDonald’s guy,” he said. “Real big on McDonald’s. Lately, not really.”

Does that mean he’s making healthier choices? Taking an interest in the keen relationship between nutrition and performance? Going all-in on kale?

“I’ve actually been trying that Carl’s Jr.,” he said. “First of all, because — hello — I’m Carl Jr. So I’ve been eating some Carl’s Jr. burgers. It’s been pretty good.”

It’s not such a mystery why Edwards’ tastes might not be all that refined. He hails from Prosperity, South Carolina, a town of fewer than 1,200 with a Wendy’s, a Waffle House and, well, you know. That’s about it, although a Google search does reveal a Hawg Heaven Barbeque.

“I eat fast food every day,” he said. “All those other guys eat healthy. Everybody eats whatever they think is good for them, so I eat what I think is good for me.”

Cubs manager Joe Maddon could only laugh and shake his head when the conversation was shared with him.

“He’s bursting on the major-league scene right now, eyes wide open, an extremely talented young man,” Maddon said. “He’s going to be really good for many years to come.

“Regarding that other stuff, I like that he’s being his own guy. I’m certain that, along the way, he’s going to start making better choices when it comes to the gastronomical component of his life. But for right now, why not?”

Why not eat a lot of fast food?

“Right now, he’s as thin as a rail,” Maddon said. “He should eat all the ice cream, burritos and Carl’s Jr. he can. And I would be doing the exact same thing if I had his body style.”

Actually, it sounds a little bit like heaven.

Follow me on Twitter @slgreenberg.