Cubs eye growing role for young power reliever Edwards

MESA, Ariz. — For all the relievers the Cubs have in camp, the most intriguing to watch might be C.J. Edwards.

The skinny 25-year-old with a powerful fastball was called up in June last season. He made eight postseason appearances as one of manager Joe Maddon’s most trusted relievers.

“You saw last year what he’s capable of doing,” Maddon said. “I really anticipate a lot of the same and probably a little bit of an uptick there. So you want to make sure that this ability’s going to be there for several years to come.”

That means a “minor spike” in workload from Edwards’ 60 combined appearances (61⅓ innings) between Class AAA and the majors. He had a 3.75 ERA and two saves in 36 appearances last season with the Cubs.

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

He could wind up with a significant setup role this season and possibly the closer’s job in the next year or two, assuming durability.

“I would like to believe that we should not have to push him too hard,” Maddon said, considering the Cubs have 40 pitchers in camp, most of them relievers.

Thanks, Obama

First baseman Anthony Rizzo got the most out of his short off-season, including a recent surprise appearance on the red carpet at the Grammys with his girlfriend.

How did he score the Grammys access?

“World Series champion,” he said, smiling, adding he had always wanted to attend and took the opportunity to make the request.

But for all the perks and well-earned exhaling after the long-awaited World Series title, he’s serious about winning it all again this season.

“I don’t want to get political,” Rizzo said. “But when we were at the White House [Jan. 16], there’s a little quote in the Oval Office [President Barack Obama’s desk] that said, ‘Hard things are hard.’ There’s no shortcut. And that really stuck with me.”

Prime time

The Cubs will open the season at 7:35 p.m. on April 4 in St. Louis on ESPN. The second game, two days later, will be at 7:15 p.m. on CSN+.

ESPN also picked up the Cubs’ home opener at 7:05 p.m. on April 10. Ch. 7 will broadcast the second home game, two days later, at
7:05 p.m. Coverage will include the ring ceremony.

This and that

Friday is reporting day for the full squad, with the first team meeting, pre-stretch entertainment and workouts scheduled for Saturday. Rain is in the forecast.

υ Setup man Pedro Strop, who spent seven weeks on the disabled list late last season with knee and groin injuries, went on a offseason conditioning program to lose weight and take stress off his left knee. He lost eight pounds.

υ Four Cubs prospects made Baseball America’s preseason top 100 list: Outfielder Eloy Jimenez (No. 14), infielder Ian Happ (63), outfielder Albert Almora Jr. (64) and right-hander Dylan Cease (97). All but Cease are in big-league camp. Shortstop Gleyber Torres, who was traded to the Yankees in the Aroldis Chapman deal last season, is ranked fifth on the list.

υ Remember the “Grandpa Rossy” motorized scooter Rizzo and Kris Bryant gave retiring catcher David Ross last year? Ross gave it to his grandmother in Florida. “I believe she’s driving it all over the panhandle,” Maddon said. “So if you see a ‘Grandpa Rossy’ driven by Grandma Rossy, you know that it’s his grandma.”

Follow me on Twitter