C.J. Edwards was pitching for a new team in a new league at a new level for a new organization. Making a strong first impression? Not really much of a concern.
"New uniform, new team," he said, "but same C.J."
Acquired from the Texas Rangers as part of the package for right-hander Matt Garza last week, the confident hurler made his Cubs' organizational debut Sunday night for Class A Advanced Daytona.
The results looked much like they had all summer at Class A Hickory as the lanky right-hander struck out the first seven batters he faced en route to five one-hit innings in the Cubs' 2-1 win over the Palm Beach Cardinals.
Edwards finished with eight strikeouts and a walk but did not figure in the decision. The Cubs' No. 12 prospect piled up those first seven strikeouts mostly by blowing Palm Beach away with his low- to mid-90s heater. Five of the seven ended with Cardinals swinging and missing, including the first four batters he faced.
"I'm doing the same things that got me to this point in my career," Edwards said. "Going out each and every day, ready to fight."
After starting with a heavy dose of fastballs, the 21-year-old worked primarily off his heater and breaking ball, mixing in a handful of changeups. With one out in the third, Adam Lewis finally put a ball in play against Edwards, grounding out to shortstop Wes Darvill. After Ronny Gil singled on a grounder up the middle, Starlin Rodriguez fouled out to end the inning.
Edwards recorded another strikeout and induced two popups in the fourth. An inning later, Anthony Garcia reached on an error, but Nick Longmire popped up and Adam Lewis grounded into a double play.
The outing continued the success Edwards enjoyed in Hickory, where he broke out with a 1.83 ERA and 122 strikeouts over 93 1/3 innings in 18 starts. Despite playing in one of the more homer-friendly ballparks in the Minor Leagues in L.P. Frans Stadium, Edwards didn't allow a single homer. In fact, no professional hitter has ever taken the 6-foot-2, 155-pounder deep.
Edwards ended his stint with the Crawdads by limiting opponents to one earned run or fewer in eight straight starts. He registered a 63-to-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 41 innings during that span, including a 12-strikeout performance on June 14 against Delmarva.
The trade and promotion to the Florida State League reunited him with Cubs pitching coach Storm Davis, who used to coach in the Rangers organization and worked a little with Edwards in the team's instructional league in 2011. Edwards said Davis preaches many of the same things as Hickory pitching coach Ryan O'Malley, which is making Edwards' transition easier.
"This is really my first time working one-on-one with [Davis]," Edwards said. "[O'Malley] and Storm talk about the same things, staying up on the ball and not pulling off. Storm and I have good communication going right now, just trying to help me in my career. He and O'Malley, they're just trying to look out for a young kid with a young career."
Edwards was hardly scouted coming out of Mid-Carolina High School in Prosperity, S.C., and signed after the Rangers drafted him in the 48th round of the 2011 Draft. He emerged as a steal last summer when he started throwing mid-90 mph fastballs in the Arizona and Northwest leagues.
His stock has risen steadily since. The fastball is still his best offering, but he's shown enough with his changeup and curveball that many, including MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo, believe Edwards could wind up with three average or better pitches, giving him a chance to be a quality Major League starter.
Joining Edwards in the Garza trade were Mike Olt, Justin Grimm and a player to be named. MLB.com ranked Olt fifth in the Cubs system, and the trio add depth to a farm system that also features top prospects Javier Baez, Albert Almora, Jorge Soler and 2013 first-round pick Kris Bryant.
"The Major League team might be struggling," Edwards said, "but they got a lot of young guys I can see out here that can change things."
Edwards exited a scoreless game and the Cubs grabbed the lead in the seventh as Taiwan Easterling and Brad Zapenas scored on a throwing error by third baseman Danny Stienstra.
Lendy Castillo (1-0) got the win after allowing an unearned run on one hit and three walks with three strikeouts in three innings. Austin Reed pitched around a hit in the ninth for his third save.