With his family back home, he’s aiming for a starting role with the Milwaukee Brewers, but is up against 32-year-old Jody Gerut and 24-year-old Carlos Gomez in a bid to play center field.
“There’s a lot of thinking going on right now,” Edmonds said. “That’s when I woke up the other day and was like, ‘What am I doing here?’ Those are the days you’ve got to come and grind it out.”
Gomez is slated to be the starter, but manager Ken Macha likes what Edmonds has done so far in camp, and Edmonds’ ability to play all the outfield positions will give Macha options.
“He’ll be a nice addition,” Macha said. “You’ve got three different guys that can play center field.”
Right fielder Corey Hart said he’s trying to learn as much as he can from Edmonds’ preparation.
“Just watching him play defense, we know what he can do swinging the bat, but I just watch his defense and try to learn and pick up things out there,” Hart said. “He’s a guy who watches everything and he does a lot of things before the ball even gets to the plate.”
Edmonds took a year off, but a call to St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols got him back in the cage just three weeks before he signed as a non-roster player with the Brewers in January.
Edmonds first thought would he would rejoin the Cardinals, where he spent eight seasons until 2007. He’s still close with St. Louis manager Tony La Russa and knew the Cardinals would need a fourth outfielder. He figured La Russa would give him significant playing time.
But Brewers general manager Doug Melvin had been calling Edmonds’ agent, and Edmonds realized the opportunity he’d get going to another rival of the Cardinals after finishing 2008 with the Chicago Cubs.
“I feel good playing and that’s all that matters. … The guys in the clubhouse are awesome. It’s a good group and it’s fun and it helps a lot,” Edmonds said. “Whoever is at this level wants to play every day, so that would be a great thing, but that depends on what they have in store for (me).”
Edmonds doesn’t appear to have lost much in the field or at the plate after hitting .284 with 382 career home runs and 1,176 RBIs in 16 seasons. He’s hit the ball hard this spring and homered for the first time last Friday against the Cubs.
Edmonds can opt out of his minor league deal March 25. If he’s added to the roster, he’ll make $850,000 and can make up to $1.75 million in bonuses.
“I didn’t touch a ball or a bat until I announced I wanted to play. So I basically had three weeks to prepare,” he said. “I was kind of doing some running and lifting, but I didn’t touch a ball or a bat until the day that I decided I wanted to start playing.”
He’s also not concerned that his body might betray him again after several surgeries late in his career. He acknowledges he was embarrassed by his play at times because of multiple injuries.
“You expect to be a certain player and it’s tough to do, it’s tough to handle when you’re not that player. I went through the thing with San Diego and the year I struggled in St. Louis a little bit after the concussion and the foot surgery,” Edmonds said.
“San Diego (in 2008) was frustrating just because I felt bad for not playing well and I knew that I still could. I just kind of changed my approach because I had no legs underneath from prior surgeries and I was embarrassed. That sucked.
“It’s nice that Chicago gave me a chance to play again and I enjoyed it over there. It let me know I could still play and that’s a good feeling. What helped me get to this point now is that I still believe in myself and I know I can do it.”