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Cubs option struggling Edwards to Triple-A

Montgomery placed on injured list with mild lat strain
@MLBastian
April 6, 2019

MILWAUKEE -- Carl Edwards Jr. has been to baseball's mountaintop, pitching in the final inning of the Cubs' World Series triumph in Cleveland three years ago. Now, Chicago's embattled late-inning reliever is headed back to the Minor Leagues to clear the clutter in his mind and focus on regaining both

MILWAUKEE -- Carl Edwards Jr. has been to baseball's mountaintop, pitching in the final inning of the Cubs' World Series triumph in Cleveland three years ago. Now, Chicago's embattled late-inning reliever is headed back to the Minor Leagues to clear the clutter in his mind and focus on regaining both his confidence and command.

After only one week's worth of games, the Cubs reached a tipping point with their bullpen, summoning right-hander Allen Webster (contract selected) and lefty Kyle Ryan (recalled) from Triple-A Iowa as reinforcements for the reeling relief corps. Edwards was optioned to Triple-A as part of of the reorganization, while lefty Mike Montgomery (mild left lat strain) was placed on the 10-day injured list.

Edwards was informed after Friday's 13-10 loss to the Brewers that he was going back to the Minors.

"It's a tough moment emotionally for the player," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "A lot of times, it's an ego thing. Your ego gets a pretty strong hit, man. But, once you get back and you settle in, and you start seeing the benefits of it, and you know you're coming back in the back of your mind, it's just a win-win for everybody.

"So, it's not easy, but the part that's somewhat easier is knowing that it's good for him and it's going to make a difference in his career and it's going to make a difference for us. That's how I look at it."

Following an impressive spring in which he worked on a new hesitation move as part of his delivery, Edwards has struggled out of the chute for Chicago. The righty allowed six runs in 1 2/3 innings, walked five and struck out two. After his first regular-season appearance, Edwards was also informed by MLB that his delivery was illegal, as the re-planting of his lead foot technically resulted in two steps toward home.

Edwards did not flinch at ditching the new technique, but it was undoubtedly a physical and mental hurdle.

"I just think once he really takes control of his mental game he's going to be as good as anybody," Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said. "I think he’s working on it, and I think we'll get there. Just given the start he's gotten off to, it's a tough environment for him to do that real quickly right now. So we're going to give him a little bit of space and let him work it out there."

Montgomery, who dealt with a left shoulder issue early in Spring Training, has allowed six runs on eight hits in 2 2/3 innings this season. He and Edwards were part of a larger bullpen problem for the Cubs, who headed into Saturday with an 8.54 ERA, a .318 opponents' average and a 16 percent walk rate from their relief corps.

"It definitely hasn't gone like we've planned it," said Montgomery, who plans to play light catch on Sunday to gauge his recovery progress. "But, I think it's going to be a good test for us here, to have a positive mind-set and move forward. This game has an opportunity to beat you down. If you let it, it's just going to make things worse. We've got a lot of faith in each other as players, and I think that's going to be what's going to make us get through this."

Webster had a strong Cactus League showing, turning in a 1.50 ERA with 11 strikeouts and three walks in 12 innings. In the one spring outing monitored by Statcast, the right-hander averaged 97.5 mph on his fastball. He and Ryan were two of the final three candidates for the last spot in the Cubs' bullpen. Ryan, who spent last season with Iowa while reworking his delivery, had a 2.84 ERA in 12 2/3 innings in Cactus League play.

"If these guys can supply well-thrown strikes, I'll take it," Maddon said.

Maddon not focused on contract
Over the offseason, Epstein made it clear that the team would not discuss a potential contract extension for Maddon until later this year. Maddon, who is in the final season under his five-year contract, was asked Saturday if he feels any added pressure in light of the team's slow start.

"Zero. Zero," Maddon said. "The last four years have been pretty good. If I have to rely on a week's worth of baseball games, then that's a bad process. Of course [fans want to blame someone], and I'm willing to shoulder the blame. But, I really have zero concern. That's the best way I can describe it."

Tseng removed from roster
In order to add Webster to the 40-man roster, the Cubs designated 24-year-old right-hander Jen-Ho Tseng for assignment. That gives Chicago seven days (previously 10) to either trade or release Tseng, or assign him outright to Triple-A if he clears waivers.

Jordan Bastian covers the Cubs for MLB.com. He previously covered the Indians from 2011-18 and the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian.