Edman plans to use Classic as a boost -- as soon as jet lag is gone

March 16th, 2023

JUPITER, Fla. -- Just when thought he was over the rigors of playing several three-plus-hour games, enduring a 20-hour travel day and adjusting to a 14-hour time difference between Japan and the East Coast of the United States, the Cardinals’ standout shortstop got another stark reminder of the wear and tear recently put on his body.

Back in Florida with the Cards, Edman nodded off to sleep around 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday after competing in the World Baseball Classic for the past couple of weeks. Then, he found himself wide awake at 4:30 a.m. with nothing to do.

“I woke up 4:30 and I was ready to go, but the previous day I woke up at 10 [a.m.] because I got in at 2:30 [a.m.], and my body was just ready to go into a coma for a little bit,” said Edman, who wasn’t in the lineup for the Cardinals' 3-0 loss to the Astros on Thursday. “I'm sure I'll be ready to fall asleep early again tonight, but I'll force myself to stay awake a little bit longer and sleep in.

“I think getting back on a sleep schedule is important. Hopefully I can make gradual adjustments and it doesn't linger.”

Despite the travel rigors and time-zone adjustments, Edman raved about his time playing for Korea in the Classic in Tokyo. Competing there allowed him to honor his mother’s Korean heritage, as she returned with her son for the first time since leaving the country as a teen.

Edman did his best to savor the culture and learn the differences between the international game and MLB play. Those efforts helped him not be too negatively affected by Korea’s substandard performance in the Classic. The team was upset in its opening game against Australia, and that proved to be the difference in it not advancing out of pool play.

Edman opened the Classic as Korea’s leadoff hitter, but he mostly struggled and was ultimately moved to the No. 9 spot in the order. His biggest moment came on a sharp single up the middle to plate two runs in Korea’s win over the Czech Republic.

“Getting to play in the Tokyo Dome was a very cool experience, and it’s different the way fans embrace the game there,” said Edman, who was 2-for-11 in his three WBC games. “One of the coolest things I saw was that for each individual player in Japan, they each had their own walk-up song that the fans had made themselves. It was a great environment to play in. I really enjoyed every bit of my time there.”

Edman also got an up-close look at “Nootbaar Mania” and how Japanese baseball fans have warmly embraced Cardinals outfielder . Nootbaar brought his “pepper grinder” celebration to Japan, and it was quickly adopted by Japanese fans, Little League players and even international superstar Shohei Ohtani.

After a solid finish to the 2022 season and an offseason in which he worked to increase his bat speed and his hard-hit rate, Nootbaar has carried over his momentum to the Classic, where he’s helped Japan to a 5-0 record and a semifinal berth. Through five games, he’s gone 7-for-19 (.368) with three RBIs, four walks and two stolen bases.

Said Edman of Nootbaar: “He's a national hero. It's cool to see the nation of Japan embrace him like that. I know he's having the time of his life and he just seemed really happy.”

The Cardinals are happy that Edman returned to Spring Training healthy, especially after seeing Mets closer Edwin Diaz suffer a potentially season-ending right knee injury during a celebration following Puerto Rico’s win over the Dominican Republic on Wednesday. Last season, Edman combined his bat (.265, 13 home runs and 57 RBIs), his speed (32 steals) and his glove (just five errors in 153 games) for MLB’s 10th-best WAR (6.3).

“What he does defensively and on the bases, that’s hard to match,” Cardinals manager Oli Marmol gushed. “He's a really good defender. He's always in the right spot and doesn't beat himself.”

Because of the time difference, Edman said Cardinals Spring Training games were usually ending at about the time he was waking up the next morning in Japan. Edman, who texted regularly with teammate Brendan Donovan while he was away, is hopeful that his time spent playing high-leverage games in the Classic will give him a boost early in the season.

“I think particularly from a mental standpoint,” Edman said. “Those games were long after playing a couple of two-and-a-half-hour games here. Having to stay engaged for three and a half hours-plus, from a mental standpoint, that prepares you well for the season.”