How Edwards Jr. changed the way he sees the game

January 31st, 2023

This story was excerpted from Jessica Camerato’s Nationals Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Carl Edwards Jr. arrived at Nationals Spring Training last March with seven years of Major League experience and a Minor League deal. In two weeks, he will return to camp with the momentum of a turnaround season and an established late-inning role in the bullpen.

Edwards’ 2022 performance helped anchor the Nats’ frequently called-upon ‘pen. His 6-3 record and 2.76 ERA showed his productivity over 62 innings, but there is so much more that went into his strong results on the mound beyond baseball.

“Why dwell on stuff in the past when you have the present right here? That’s how I looked at it,” Edwards, 31, said late last season. “I would just constantly rewind it -- ‘Man, I shouldn’t do this’ -- but now, I have learned, it happens.

“That’s why sometimes I can give up a home run and I don’t show it. It’s not a smile, it’s like one of those [Edwards shrugs], and I’m telling myself, ‘This was supposed to happen. Now, I’ve got to find another way to change the story.’ I think that’s where the mindfulness comes in.”

After pitching his first four big league seasons on the Cubs, Edwards was a member of five teams in three years. In the season prior to joining the Nationals, Edwards was designated for assignment by the Braves in May following one appearance, went on the 60-day injured list in June a month after signing with the Blue Jays, came off the IL and was released in August, then finished the remainder of the season in Triple-A on a Minor League deal with the White Sox.

So while getting consistent reps on the Nationals last year was beneficial, being given an opportunity doesn’t guarantee success. Just as much as he worked on his command and his changeup, the right-hander also focused on mindfulness -- which has included seeking out positive and motivational information -- following the 2021 season. Now, each homer or misstep that occurs on the field remains there rather than carrying over into the next outing.

“It’s inside of me,” Edwards said. “I tell myself every day how good I can be and how good I want to be. … Coming out here, being able to actually think about it, put deep thoughts into it and then actually be able to perform and do it, it’s like the biggest part.”

Edwards shared that outlook on the Nationals, having been impacted by the veteran leadership he received early in his career on the Cubs. At the end of last season, he was encouraged by his personal improvements as well as the growth and potential he saw in his younger teammates.

“Spring Training, you’ll see a much better team,” Edwards said at the time. “It’s going to be fun because guys are going to start feeling comfortable and the guys [in the Minor Leagues] are going to be hungry to get here. When they get here, they’re going to be even hungrier to stay here. It just takes time, and you’ve just got to be patient.”

By adjusting his approach to view the season game-by-game and no longer thinking about the “would haves” or “should haves” from his appearances, Edwards is entering his eighth season with a mindset proven for success.

“To me, it’s been a long time coming,” Edwards said.