Jim Edmonds said he doesn’t know what prompted him to attempt a comeback with Milwaukee after sitting out the 2009 season. He hasn’t been told that he is on the team. He isn’t living off his legacy as one of the premier two-way outfielders of the past 15 years. He’s saying the right, modest things.
But with a little more than three weeks left in camp, he’s authoring a compelling spring story.
Edmonds went 2-for-3 with a home run and double in the Brewers’ 12-3 win over the Cubs on Friday. He is hitting .429 (6-for-14) in six Cactus League games and making a strong case to make the Opening Day roster as a reserve outfielder.
“Two good swings,” he said with a shrug. “It can come and go so quickly. You learn to stay humble and try to play the game each day. It tends to humble you if you get a little excited.
“I believe in myself. I knew I wasn’t over the hill, or too old to play. I’m just going out there and doing my job. I feel pretty good. I feel better than I felt a couple years ago. It’s nice to be healthy and have healthy legs.”
The 40-year-old looks and sounds refreshed after a season away from the game, during which he “didn’t watch more than three or four games.” Edmonds, a left-handed hitter, may be playing his way into a role with the Brewers, whose starting outfielders all bat right-handed.
And it’s not as if Edmonds padded his numbers on Friday by taking advantage of second-tier pitching.
He homered against Jeff Samardzija, the hard-throwing right-hander who is trying to earn a rotation spot with the Cubs. And his double came against John Grabow, the veteran left-hander against whom Edmonds was hitless in eight regular-season at-bats. After eight seasons in St. Louis, Edmonds split the 2008 season between the Padres (a disappointment) and the Cubs (a revival). He hit for power in Chicago – 19 homers in 250 at-bats – but said he didn’t receive any “serious offers” to play in 2009.
In January, for reasons unknown, he figured it was time to start swinging again. A conversation with Cardinals manager Tony La Russa helped convince him to try.
“I only had three weeks to prepare,” Edmonds said. “I was doing some running and lifting, but I didn’t touch a ball or a bat until the day I said I wanted to start playing.
“I was in St. Louis. I just called Albert (Pujols). We went and started hitting. We hit every day for three weeks, started running a little more, try to do a little baseball stuff.”
Right now, he’s doing a lot of baseball stuff.
“The guy took a year off, he’s come here, he hit a home run today, he’s playing phenomenal defense,” left-hander John Halama, attempting a comeback of his own with the Brewers, said admiringly. “It seems like he’s never missed a beat.” Edmonds said he doesn’t have any expectations for himself this season, that he hasn’t spoken with anybody in the front office about his role, that he simply wants to show that he can still compete at the highest level.
So far, he has.
“I know I can still play,” he said. “If I just do what I’m doing, I’ll make the team. And if not, I’ll go back home and play golf.”