116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — Iowa's best starting pitcher right now is a legacy. You knew that.
Calvin John Eldred Jr. (he goes by C.J.) is the son of the legendary former Hawkeye pitcher. Cal Eldred pitched 13 seasons in the big leagues and holds a position with the world champion Kansas City Royals.
What you probably don't know about C.J. Eldred is the amount of time he went between making meaningful pitches in a game. Try three years.
The sophomore from Mount Vernon didn't throw last season as a transfer from Indiana, redshirted by the Hoosiers as a freshman two years ago. An injury prevented him from pitching for Mount Vernon High School his senior season.
Eldred did get in some summer ball time on the mound, but the gap between starts for his schools is staggering. So is how he has been able to overcome that time off.
'It actually took awhile to get used to pitching for a school again,' he said. 'It kind of felt like 'Is this wait ever going to end?' I didn't throw my senior year, didn't throw my freshman year. Last year, I had to sit out. This year, finally. But it did give me time to work on a lot of stuff. I've been able to clean up some stuff on the mound. I've really learned a lot, which has helped me. But, yeah, it was a long wait, I'll tell you that much.'
Eldred said he feels his fastball command has improved exponentially, and he's been able to develop different offspeed pitches. He described himself as more of a breaking ball pitcher in high school but has been able to get outs this season by using his sinker and working both sides of the plate.
The right-hander is 2-2 with a 2.09 earned run average for the Hawkeyes (10-12, 2-1 Big Ten), who play a three-game Big Ten Conference series this weekend at Minnesota, and is coming off his first career complete game last weekend against Maryland. Eldred is expected to get the start in Friday afternoon's Game 1.
He was asked if he expected to make the impact he has thus far, despite his relative rust.
'I think you kind of have to,' he said. 'You've got to go in there with that mindset that you are going to help the team. I didn't think I'd be the Friday guy, to be honest. We have Tyler Peyton. But he went down for a couple of weekends, they asked me to fill the role, and I've just done the best I could there to help us out.'
Despite familial ties to the Iowa program, Eldred went to Indiana out of high school because of the coaching staff there, he said. Tracy Smith took the head coaching job at Arizona State last year, Rick Heller took over at Iowa, and Eldred decided to come back home.
He lost a year of eligibility because he transferred within the Big Ten Conference, his appeal to get back that year of eligibility denied. But he's happy with the decision he made.
'I was excited about the opportunity of coming home and maybe playing right away,' he said. 'I didn't get the waiver, but I knew going into it there was that chance. But it has all worked out. It's nice to be back here. It's 30 minutes from my house, so I'm able to get back and see family a little more ... this was just the right move for me.'
Not once has he been intimidated by following his father to Iowa.
'I want to play this game until they tell me to quit,' he said. 'As far as following in my dad's footsteps, those are definitely big footsteps to fill. But I'm going to do my best and see where baseball takes me.'
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