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Notes: Edwards going back to basics in delivery

Prospect Gilbert to pitch Thursday; Gordon approaches spring action
@gregjohnsmlb
February 25, 2020

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Carl Edwards Jr.’s comeback began in earnest on Monday and, of course, it came against his former club. The hard-throwing reliever helped the Cubs snap their World Series drought in 2016 and was an integral part of their bullpen in 2017-18, as well, before messing with his

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Carl Edwards Jr.’s comeback began in earnest on Monday and, of course, it came against his former club.

The hard-throwing reliever helped the Cubs snap their World Series drought in 2016 and was an integral part of their bullpen in 2017-18, as well, before messing with his mechanics and seeing things go sideways last year.

But after being dealt to the Padres at the July 31 Trade Deadline and then optioned to the Minors to end a disappointing season, the 28-year-old signed with Seattle as a free agent in December and is looking to rediscover the electric fastball that elevated him to prominence with the Cubs as a youngster.

Edwards’ results didn’t look overwhelming in the Mariners' 16-12 loss on Monday as he allowed three runs on three hits and a walk with one strikeout in his initial one-inning appearance, but it was a broken-bat single and an infield dribbler that led to his demise, and he said his arm and reworked delivery felt good.

A year ago, the whippet-thin reliever with the live arm decided to add a pause in his pitching motion with the goal of improving his command. Instead, it led to some umpires calling it an illegal toe tap for a balk and forcing more changes. Things never fully clicked again as he posted a 5.87 ERA in 20 outings, before earning a trip to Triple-A and eventually a trade to San Diego.

“I’m back to square one,” Edwards said of his delivery. “I’m going back to what got me here. That’s the thing. You’re always told to do what got you there. I did that, then all the sudden, for some reason, I wanted to change because I started overthinking the game and making it harder than it really was. I just have to go back to simplifying things and making everything better.

“I’m close. I feel like I’m there. It’ll take a couple games this spring to get it out, then I should be where I want to be.”

As for facing the Cubs in his first outing?

“It was funny, but it happens," Edwards said. "I got to talk to a couple of the guys before the game. I’ve still got friends and we stick with each other as a family. But overall, it’s just baseball.”

The Mariners feel Edwards could be an important part of their bullpen this year as one of the few veterans in the mix. Manager Scott Servais was the Rangers' director of player development when they drafted Edwards with a 48th-round pick in 2011 and has followed his career closely.

“He’ll be pitching in some higher-leverage spots for us,” Servais said. “It’s important to get him going as camp progresses. I like C.J. a lot. I’ve known him for a long time. He’s a heck of a story, from where he got drafted to get to the big leagues.

"The velocity he pitched with early in his career, we’re hoping to get back there. When it’s 95-96 [mph] coming out and the ball’s moving like that, it’s some kind of weapon."

Graveman, Sheffield sharp in first outings
It’s been 21 months since right-hander Kendall Graveman last pitched in a Major League game, so the 29-year-old right-hander relished every moment of his scoreless two-inning start in Tuesday’s 2-1 victory over the Brewers.

Graveman signed as a free agent with Seattle this winter and made his first official mound appearance since May 11, 2018, as he returns from Tommy John surgery. The Mariners have the former A’s Opening Day starter penciled into their rotation, and he did nothing to discourage that while allowing just one hit and a walk in his two frames.

“Over these last 18 months of rehab, I’ve really grown to rekindle the passion for the game," Graveman said. "I don’t want it to be a stress. 'Let’s go out and have fun and also stay focused.' That was our goal today, to execute. Getting back out there was a lot of fun. A big league game against some big league hitters, it’s been awhile. It was good.”

The Mariners also got two perfect innings with three strikeouts from rookie southpaw Justus Sheffield, who also is projected into the season-opening rotation.

“Really good stuff out of Sheff,” Servais said. “A couple punchouts and a really good slider. Sheff has strikeout stuff, and we saw it today. Nice to get him off to a good start. That’s the key. Love to see what Graveman and Sheff did today.”

Gilbert to debut Thursday in Peoria
With Taijuan Walker’s first Cactus League outing getting pushed back as the Mariners give their free-agent signing a little more time to build up his arm, 2018 first-round Draft choice Logan Gilbert (ranked third on the Mariners' prospect list and No. 48 overall by MLB Pipeline) will see his spring debut moved to Walker’s initial spot in the Thursday split-squad game against the Giants at Peoria Stadium.

Servais indicated Gilbert would probably pitch the first inning in the 12:10 p.m. PT game, with lefty Nestor Cortes the probable starter in the other split-squad game against the White Sox in Glendale, Ariz., at 12:05 p.m. PT.

Walker threw well in a live batting practice session on Monday and will throw a similar simulated outing on Friday, perhaps in a "B" game if one can be arranged with another club also looking to get extra work for some pitchers.

Short hops from Peoria
• After arriving late to camp following the birth of his daughter, second baseman Dee Gordon has quickly been catching up and will likely make his Cactus League debut on Wednesday or Thursday.

• Reliever Gerson Bautista looked extremely sharp in his first Cactus League outing on Monday, hitting 96-97 mph with his fastball and reminding that he looked very good early last year before straining his right pectoral muscle and having to sit out the first two months of the season. The 24-year-old is one of the five players acquired from the Mets in the trade for Robinson Canó and Edwin Díaz.

Up next
Rookie right-hander Justin Dunn makes his first spring start in Wednesday’s 12:05 p.m. PT game against the Reds in Goodyear as the 24-year-old opens his bid for a spot in the Mariners rotation. Veteran lefty Wei-Yin Chen will follow Dunn, with free-agent signee Yoshihisa Hirano also set for his Mariners debut. Sonny Gray will start for Cincinnati.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.