IOWA CITY, Ia. — C.J. Eldred’s baseball career is heading to the professional ranks.
The Iowa right-hander announced early Tuesday morning via Instagram that he has signed an undrafted free agent deal with the Kansas City Royals, thus forgoing his final year of eligibility.
“I’m sitting there looking at it going, If I were to not take the opportunity that I was given by the Royals, there are no guarantees coming off of a surgery,” Eldred told HawkCentral Tuesday. “Anybody who goes through an arm surgery will tell you some guys come off and they’re back to who they were in their first start. And some guys, it takes them two years.
“With college, I only have one year left. You don’t know if that opportunity to sign professionally is going to be there at the end of next year.”
Eldred, who made just one start in 2017 before a torn UCL ended his season, would’ve been a redshirt senior in 2018 and likely a mainstay in the Hawkeyes’ weekend rotation.
In his only full season in Iowa City, the 6-foot-1 right-hander went 3-8 with a 3.43 ERA over 94 1/3 innings in 2016. Eldred transferred to Iowa after redshirting at Indiana in 2014, and had to sat out the 2015 season due to Big Ten transfer for regulations.
He was primed to be Rick Heller’s Saturday night starter this past season and kicked things off well with a strong start at South Florida — one run and three hits over six innings. But that outing marked Eldred’s last in Hawkeye gold.
The Royals though, happened to have scouts at that lone outing. They reestablished contact after the MLB Draft and brought Eldred in for a throwing session at their Spring Training facility in Surprise, Ariz.
Kansas City extended an offer shortly after. Eldred’s father, former MLB pitcher Cal Eldred, also works on the Royals’ player development staff and is a special assistant to the general manager.
Eldred, who had surgery on March 15 and was initially given a recovery time of seven to eight months, said he’s been throwing every other day since July 17. He extended to 75 feet for the first time Monday and hopes to be ready to throw sometime during the MLB Instructional League, which runs through October.
Eldred’s departure is another blow to the Iowa pitching staff, which already lost weekend starters Nick Gallagher and Ryan Erickson to the MLB Draft. The Tommy John recoveries of pitchers Kole Kampen and Nick Allgeyer now become all the more important, as well as consistent contributions from Parkland College transfer Brady Schanuel.
Eldred’s described his college career as a “rollercoaster.” He exits Iowa City having learned one valuable lesson.
“In this game, if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last four years in college, there’s not one thing that’s guaranteed,” he said. “And when you have a guarantee sitting in front of you, it’s hard to pass up.”
Dargan Southard covers preps, recruiting, Iowa and UNI athletics for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, The Des Moines Register and HawkCentral.com. Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.