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2017 Cubs Spring Training Countdown: Day 6

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The skinny guy with a 95-plus fastball could be on the cusp of stardom.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Carl Edwards Jr. nearly became the pitcher who was on the mound when the Cubs won the World Series. He got the first two outs easily in the 10th inning with the Cubs up by two, but couldn’t nail down that final out, so Joe Maddon had to call on Mike Montgomery to finish things off.

Nevertheless, closing games is something we might very well see Edwards do in the near future. By July, Edwards had become Joe Maddon’s “middle inning closer” and Edwards himself seems to have the right approach:

“My confidence still the same as when I got called up,” Edwards said. “Very mellow, very humble, not overthinking things. I pretty much just stay in my lane. When they call my number, I do my job.”

That’s exactly the right way to approach closing, even though Edwards likely won’t be called on to do that this year. Wade Davis will close most games, but the Cubs also have two experienced closers in Hector Rondon and Koji Uehara who can give Davis a break. This will allow Maddon and the staff to bring Edwards along in a middle inning/setup role.

Edwards’ thin build means he can’t be overused. In his 36 regular-season appearances, he was brought in on consecutive days just once, and only 14 other times on one day’s rest. He had one brutally bad outing (August 13 against the Cardinals), where he allowed four walks and five earned runs in just two-thirds of an inning. That was one-third of all the runs and nearly one-third of his entire season’s total of walks in one game.

No doubt, Edwards has the fastball to get hitters out. He struck out 52 batters in 36 innings in 2016 (37.7 percent of all batters he faced) and he simply needs to keep the command that allowed just 14 walks to be a successful big-league reliever.

Edwards reminds me physically of Juan Cruz. Edwards is listed at 6-3, 170; Cruz was 6-2, 170. Cruz, too, had an electric fastball but couldn’t harness his control, and the Cubs kept trying him as a starter when he really wasn’t suited for that role. Bouncing around the majors (seven different teams) through 2012, he had a couple of pretty good years as a setup man for the Diamondbacks.

The Cubs have higher expectations from Edwards. It’s entirely possible that Wade Davis is one-and-done as a Cub and moves on after 2017, in which case Edwards could be in the mix for closer in 2018.