Signed in early March, and called up to the big leagues in early May, Carl Edwards, Jr. had history with Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez from the time they spent together with Chicago’s Cubs, and the 31-year-old, eight-year veteran ended up reestablishing himself as a reliable bullpen arm for Washington this season.
“Carl was really throwing the ball well,” Martinez said when they brought Edwards, Jr. up from Triple-A Rochester. “And I spoke to [Rochester manager] Matt LeCroy and we felt like it was time to get him up here. He did everything we asked him to do, he checked all boxes, and I think he can help us here.”
“The biggest thing with him was his health,” the manager added, “… and like I said, he checked all the boxes, he’s been back-to-back, he actually has gotten four outs down there, so, and he was — his velo was really good, it was 95-97, his curveball was good and his changeup was good.”
Martinez said from the start they were hammering one thing into Edwards, Jr.’s head: Throw strikes.
“For him, it’s all about strike-throwing,” Martinez explained. “When he works ahead in the count he does really well, because he’s got three really effective pitches. The biggest thing for me is not to fall in love with his cutter. He’s got a good curveball, he’s got a good changeup, so he’s got to mix it in there. He can throw his curveball for a strike at any time, which is something that I told him when he was really good, he did that.”
If he followed their advice, and more importantly, stayed healthy, Martinez continued, they might have something.
“When he’s healthy, he’s good. His velo was down for the last couple years, and now his velo is back up, so it’s good to see, and when you’re doing well, you can have fun. And that’s something that I talked to him about today, just continuing to have fun and let me know, because I definitely got to keep an eye on him, but let me know how you’re feeling day-to-day, and like I said, but you’re going to pitch.”
Edwards, Jr. ended up making a total of 57 appearances out of the bullpen for the Nationals, with a 2.76 ERA, a 4.24 FIP, 3.63 BB/9, 8.13 K/9, and a .224/.301/.351 line against in 62 IP, the 4th-most relief innings pitched for the ballclub.
After a few seasons dealing with injuries, Edwards, Jr. remained healthy and stuck with the Nationals through the end of the year, with the club holding on to him at the trade deadline, and GM Mike Rizzo explaining at the time how with the control the club had it made sense to hold on to the reliever.
His pitch mix was pretty much the same as what he’d thrown previously, though his fastball velo ticked up slightly, and the opponents’ batting average on the pitch, which he threw 67.9% of the time, fell from .421 in limited innings in 2021, back to where it had been in previous seasons (.229 BAA).
“CJ and I go way back, and it was all about health with him and throwing strike one, and he did that,” Martinez said on the final day of the regular season. “He took it upon himself to be more consistent with throwing strikes, and I knew, I said all along I knew what he could do if that were to happen, but he put the work in and he did it, and he kept that bullpen together as well.”
In Martinez’s mind, Edwards, Jr., and a number of the relievers who finished the season in the Nats’ bullpen could form the core of the 2023 bullpen corps.
“Him, [Kyle] Finnegan, even Cishek, [Steve] Cishek, he was phenomenal for us for a long time, and now he’s pitching really, really well at the end here, but all those guys. [Andres] Machado. I can talk about every one of those guys and what they’ve done. Machado, up and down, up and down, up and down first part of the year, and he comes in, settles in, and he’s pitched some big innings for us. Erasmo [Ramìrez], who hasn’t pitched in the big leagues for a while, comes in and has the year that he’s having. That’s awesome. We keep that bullpen intact, like I said, I don’t think this is a fluke for any of those guys. I think you’ll see them get better.”