3/25 Edwards: My nerves were crazy
C.J. Edwards was nervous Tuesday night. He had more than a week to prepare for his first Cactus League start, and had taken the advice of his father, who told him to pray and meditate. Edwards tried to visualize his approach.
“My dad actually helped me get ready for this game,” Edwards said.
But Edwards’ father was back in Prosperity, S.C., and the pitcher had to rely on Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio and catcher John Baker, who both told Edwards to just keep doing what he had been doing. The slender right-hander was a combined 8-2 with a 1.86 ERA last season at Class A Hickory and High A Daytona. He joined the Cubs in July after being dealt from the Rangers in the Matt Garza deal. Most of the Cubs front office, including Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, were in the stands in Peoria on Tuesday night to watch Edwards. He didn’t see them because Edwards says he has great “tunnel vision.” The 22-year-old had enough to think about.
“I went out there the first inning, and nerves were crazy,” Edwards said of his start against the Padres. “I can’t even explain the nerves I had. Overall being out there, I felt like I should be out there.”
He retired the first batter, and Seth Smith singled, but Edwards got Kyle Blanks to hit into a double play and end the inning. The second wasn’t as smooth as Xavier Nady singled to lead off and reached third on an error by Ryan Kalish. Rene Rivera hit a sacrifice fly, and Edwards then walked the next two batters. That prompted a visit from Bosio.
Edwards regrouped and got a ground out, and then struck out Andrew Cashner to end the inning. In the third, Edwards again retired the first batter, then Smith singled and Blanks walked. Bosio again came to the mound along with all the infielders. Edwards caught his breath, then served up a double to Nady and a sacrifice fly before he was lifted.
As Edwards walked off the field, Baker said something to him.
“His exact words were, ‘Hey, you did a hell of a job, man, and you’ve got a bright future ahead. Just stay with it,'” Edwards said, smiling.
A lot of players are so overcome by the moment that they admit they’re shaking the first time on a mound in a big league game.
“I actually wasn’t that nervous on the mound,” he said. “After I came in the first inning, my right knee just started going by itself and I was trying to look around and hold it down, but it didn’t work, so I let it bounce.”
Edwards also got advice from first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who came over to the mound in the second after the pitcher walked two in a row.
“He comes up to me, and he goes, ‘Hey, do you want to play first base?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, let’s switch,'” Edwards said.
But they didn’t. It wasn’t just Baker or Rizzo, it was everyone on the Cubs giving Edwards support. They’ve all been there.
“Overall, the guys were behind me 100 percent and they have faith in me,” he said.
The Cubs just have to figure out a way to add some muscle to his skinny body. He weighed 165 on Tuesday, no change from January when he admitted he’s been eating everything in sight. In fact, he gorged on a large order of French toast at the Breakfast Club in Scottsdale on Tuesday morning. He couldn’t finish the eggs and sausage but did eat all the bread.
He could relax once his outing was over.
“Like I tell everybody, I enjoyed it,” Edwards said. “I feel I can be out there any time to help the club when the time comes. The guys that we have up are already doing great. We’ll have our ups and downs but we’ll go out there each and every day 110 percent. When that day comes and I get the call, I feel I’ll be ready to come up there.”
Hopefully, Tuesday’s start will make it easier when he does get promoted.
“Now, I feel my first game there [at Wrigley Field], I won’t be as nervous, but then again, it’ll be Chicago, and there will be over 100 thousand fans there,” he said, over-estimating the ballpark’s attendance by about 60,000. “It’s a little different here. It was wonderful. The outcome wasn’t good but overall just being around those guys was fantastic.”
Edwards isn’t sure where he’ll open the 2014 season, although the Cubs have said it could be Double-A Tennessee. He can only hope he’s matched up with his roommates, like Duane Underwood, who made the drive to Peoria to cheer on the right-hander. There were more people in the stands than in Edwards’ hometown.
“I believe there was,” he said.
— Carrie Muskat