The top two pitching prospects in the Cubs system are not beginning the year where most thought they would during Spring Training.
C.J. Edwards was very good in big league camp and impressed his future manager. Edwards appeared in two Cactus League games and pitched three shutout innings. Edwards didn’t issue a walk while striking out two and giving up two hits. Edwards was optioned to minor league camp and was expected to be on the hill for Double-A Tennessee on Opening Day.
Smokies’ play-by-play man, Mick Gillispie reported Tuesday night that Edwards will work out of the bullpen to start the season. From all indications, Edwards is not hurt or dealing with any injuries. And the comments Jaron Madison made to the Des Moines Register about Edwards possibly being one of the first players promoted to Triple-A this summer did not point to him being injured.
It is unknown if this is a permanent move for C.J. Edwards to the pen or how long the Cubs will have him pitch in relief for the Smokies. The Cubs have not clarified their plan for Edwards.
C.J. Edwards has started 49 of the 50 games he’s appeared in over three minor league seasons and all 18 games in the Cubs’ system has been as a starter.
There has been a lot of speculation that C.J. Edwards would end up as a reliever due to his frame. But this move was rather surprising.
Pierce Johnson spent the first part of Spring Training in big league camp as a non-roster invitee. And he was very good in his two appearances. Johnson did not allow a run in four innings. He walked three, gave up a hit and struck out two batters before he was re-assigned to minor league camp.
Patrick Mooney reached out to Jason McLeod after Johnson was not included on the minor league rosters that were released Monday. McLeod said Johnson strained a lat muscle during Spring Training.
Johnson will stay in Arizona to rehab the injury and the Cubs are not going to rush him back.
McLeod told Comcast SportsNet, “We’re going the conservative route with it now so he doesn’t miss too much time. Saying that, he is probably still a couple of weeks away from getting built back up to game readiness.”
Pierce Johnson dealt with two different injuries last season. Johnson began the year on the DL with a strained hamstring and also lost time with a strained calf.
Pierce Johnson projects as a middle of the rotation starter in the big leagues. The Cubs selected him in the sandwich round in the 2012 draft with the comp pick the team received for Aramis Ramirez signing with the Brewers. Johnson has good stuff but struggles with throwing strikes. Johnson was a combined 5-5 in 20 games, 19 starts, for Kane County and Tennessee last season with a 2.54 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP.
With Edwards in the pen and Johnson in Arizona, the Smokies’ rotation for the start of the season is Corey Black, Ivan Pineyro, Felix Pena, Rob Zastryzny and Frank Batista.
Minor News and Notes
• The Pelicans Opening Day roster is loaded with top Cubs prospects according to Alan Blondin and is led by Baseball America’s Minor League Manager of the Year, Mark Johnson.
• The Pelicans are embracing the connection to the Cubs with park alterations according to Alan Blondin. The Pelicans are adding ivy to their outfield walls, and that’s just part of the ‘Cubs-ificaton’ of the facility. The Pelicans will also fly a ‘W’ flag with a fan raising it after each victory and special guest conductors will be chosen every game to lead the crowd in singing the seventh inning stretch. And the Pelicans have made around $150,000 worth of renovations to the clubhouse.
• Michiana welcomed the South Bend Cubs according to a report from WNDU.com.
• And for those interested in watching Kris Bryant on Thursday night in Iowa’s opener against the Redbirds, MiLB.TV posted a reminder to order its service.