Jim Edmonds is a four-time All-Star and an eight-time Gold Glove outfielder, so he doesn’t have a lot of experience competing for a job in Spring Training. He understands that he’ll have to do precisely that beginning next month.
“They didn’t make me any promises,” said Edmonds, who inked a Minor League contract with the Brewers on Friday that included an invitation to big league camp. “But I’ll get to go in there with a chance to show them I can still play.”
Edmonds, 39, has not seen big league pitching since the 2008 postseason, when he capped a solid second half with the Cubs. But he was among the veterans searching in vain for a job amid a poor economy last winter, and when he didn’t find any offers to his liking, Edmonds opted to take a year off.
Now the Brewers are hoping that Edmonds mounts a comeback similar to Gabe Kapler’s two years ago. Kapler, who like Edmonds is represented by agent Paul Cohen, returned from a year off and was an extremely productive extra outfielder for Milwaukee in 2008, batting .301 in 96 games.
Edmonds has not seen a live Major League pitch since Game 3 of the National League Division Series on
Oct. 8, 2004 Oct. 4, 2008. Might that be an issue as he launches his comeback?
“I don’t think so,” Edmonds said. “I’ve been hurt before and missed time, and I never had a problem coming back. I’ve been hitting the last week a lot more than I normally do, and it’s going really well. I’m pretty excited that I was able to pick it up again. I was in St. Louis this week hitting with Albert and that was a lot of fun.”
That would be Albert Pujols, one of the greatest hitters on the planet. That reunion, Edmonds said, reinforced his desire to get back into baseball.
He made it clear in recent weeks that his intention was to return, and his first choice was to do so in St. Louis, where Edmonds played from 2000-2007 and won a World Series ring. Cardinals general manager Jon Mozeliak told Edmonds on Wednesday that he didn’t see a fit, so Edmonds looked elsewhere and found a new home in Milwaukee on Thursday afternoon.
He reportedly will earn an $825,000 base salary if he makes the Brewers’ roster with an opportunity to earn as much as $2.5 million with incentives. If Edmonds isn’t added to the 40-man roster by March 25, he can elect free agency.
That “out” date is 12 days before the Brewers’ season opener.
“You know what? I don’t know how that is going to go,” Edmonds said. “I’ve played 15 years and I’ve probably had a guaranteed job in 13 of them.”
In those 15 seasons, plus a September call-up with the Angels in 1993, Edmonds is a .284 hitter with a .377 on-base percentage, 382 home runs and 1,176 RBIs. Brewers general manager Doug Melvin, looking for left-handed bench bats to compliment a right-handed-heavy starting lineup, first contacted Cohen about Edmonds during the 2009 World Series, but for months Edmonds didn’t see a good match.
That changed this past week.
“It has been a little bit of an adjustment change on my part,” he said. “I was away from the game last year but I was never really retired, and I had to decide whether I wanted to go into a situation to prove myself. I’ve been fortunate in my life to have made a good amount of money and played for a long time, but I’ve worked really hard in the past couple of months and have been doing a lot of hitting and it has come back to be quick.”
His next task is to win a job. The Brewers’ projected outfield starters, from left to right, are Ryan Braun, newcomer Carlos Gomez and Corey Hart, and Jody Gerut is penciled in as the primary backup. Edmonds is among four non-roster outfielders invited to camp with Trent Oeltjen, Logan Schafer and Adam Stern. Schafer will almost certainly begin the season in the Minors, as will the other outfielder on the 40-man roster, Lorenzo Cain.
Edmonds is by far the most experienced of the group. Stern has 37 Major League plate appearances over three seasons with the Red Sox and Orioles. Oeltjen logged 73 plate appearances last August and September with the D-backs. Edmonds has 7,708 career plate appearances for the Angels, Cardinals, Padres and Cubs.