Cashner will bring the heat for Padres

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Cashner will bring the heat for Padres

PEORIA, Ariz. Listen to the scouts talking in the back of the press box, or follow it on Twitter, and you get a sense of the buzz building around Andrew Cashner, the velocity hitting 103, 104 mph.

A Padres insider downplayed those superhuman numbers, saying the radar gun is hot in Peoria, but also didnt dispute that Cashner is blowing away hitters with 100 mph heat.

Cashner doesnt get caught up in the hype. He hears things, but doesnt pay much attention to the triple digits, or feel the need to analyze it. Its almost as if hed rather pull the phone from his locker and show you a picture of the swamp buggy he designed for duck hunting trips.

The new administration at Clark and Addison determined that Cashner would max out as a reliever. Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod drafted and developed Anthony Rizzo with the Red Sox, and then made him a key prospect in the Adrian Gonzalez deal.

Cubs executives framed last Januarys trade as giving up a late-inning power arm to get their first baseman and clubhouse leader of the future. The Padres who visit HoHoKam Stadium on Monday made a different calculation and see Cashner as a potential rotation piece for 2013 and beyond.

Its not so much proving them wrong. Its just proving (it) to myself, Cashner said last week. Whatever sport you play, there is always going to be doubters and Im always trying to prove to myself that I can pitch here and I can start.

Cashner has notched 11 strikeouts and allowed one run in eight Cactus League innings. The 25-year-old right-hander picked up this spring where he left off last September one run in six appearances after a rotator cuff strain nearly wiped out his entire 2011 season.

When I came back, everyone was doubting that I was healthy, Cashner said. Every night I was going out there and giving everything I had and it was still: Are you healthy? Theyve never once asked me over here if Im healthy or not. I just kind of came in from Day 1 (and) they havent held me back at all.

Theyve let me be me and thats been the biggest thing.

Cashner grew up in Texas watching Kerry Wood and fair or not drew those comparisons from team officials and the Chicago media because of his background and build (6-foot-6, 200 pounds).

Cashner got hurt at a time when the organization was still somewhat sensitive after what Wood and Mark Prior went through, and fans certainly hadnt forgotten.

The overlooked part was that the Cubs rationalized selecting Cashner with the 19th overall pick in the 2008 draft, in part, because he was so fluid as the Texas Christian University closer, and was once athletic enough to be a high school shortstop.

San Diego manager Bud Black still sees many of those same qualities in Cashner. Black pitched 15 seasons in the big leagues, and was the pitching coach on the 2002 Angels team that won the World Series. The Padres also have a strong reputation for developing pitching talent.

He has three pitches that he throws for strikes, so I think the repertoire is there, Black said. Its a repeatable delivery, everything you look for (in a starter). Weve done a couple of things with his stride, just shortened it a touch, but its an athletic guy that has good body control, good coordination (and) the arm works easy. I definitely see a potential starter.

In the past, Cubs officials were split as to whether Cashner would develop as a starter or a closer (that too, Black said). But the Padres manager just wants Cashner to get acclimated to a new team after throwing only 10.2 innings in the big leagues last season.

There are some philosophical things that hes got to buy into that we believe in, Black said, (like) the down-and-away fastball. Some guys are so hell-bent on pitching in. (You) got to pitch in, both for effect and for strikes. But the foundation of pitching is locating the ball down and away. Because of his velocity, people have said: Hey, just throw in, they cant get around on it.

Cashner was blindsided by the trade, but he has nothing bad to say about the Cubs. Former teammates are some of his best friends, and he credits the coaching staff for teaching him how to pitch.

But Cashner will be happy in San Diego, a laid-back city that matches his personality. He knows theres no better place in baseball to pitch than Petco Park. He doesnt need a radar gun to realize that hes never felt this sharp or been this excited for a season to start.

Last year was the biggest year for me as far as learning the business side of baseball (and) growing as a player, Cashner said. (It) made me more mentally tough than anything, just everything that I went through and (how) everything went (for the team) as a whole. I feel like I got maybe a chip on my shoulder this year and Im more focused and more determined.

Im a big believer in everything happens for a reason. Well find out.

Huskers, Spartans mourn the deaths of Sam Foltz, Mike Sadler

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Huskers, Spartans mourn the deaths of Sam Foltz, Mike Sadler

Nebraska punter Sam Foltz and former Michigan State punter Mike Sadler were killed in a car accident Saturday night in Wisconsin.

Both players were working at a kicking camp near Waukesha, Wisc.

Foltz, 22, was the Big Ten Punter of the Year last season and earned All-Big Ten First Team honors.

Sadler, 24, was an All-Big Ten First Team selection in both 2012 and 2013. He was the first student-athlete at Michigan State to earn Academic All-America honors four times.

Both schools mourned the losses of their respective family members.

"Last night, we lost one of the best young men who I have ever had the honor to coach and who has ever worn the Nebraska uniform," Nebraska head coach Mike Riley said in a statement. "Sam was universally loved and respected by everyone he touched and on whom he had a positive influence each and every day. His tragic loss is immeasurable to his family, his friends, his classmates, his teammates and his coaches, and our thoughts and prayers are with all of them. The young men in our football program are hurting, but I know that their strength of character and resolve will bring us together and we will honor Sam every day moving forward."

"Our prayers of love and support go out to Sam’s family during this difficult time, and we will do all that we can to help comfort them in this time of sadness," Nebraska athletics director Shawn Eichorst said in a statement. "Sam was truly a tremendous young man who represented everything that a Nebraska student, athlete, teammate and friend should strive to be. While his loss is devastating, his impact will be felt forever. Along with coach Riley, our focus is on providing Sam’s family, teammates and friends with the critical support and love that they need at this time."

"We are deeply shocked and saddened to hear the extremely tragic news about Mike Sadler's death," Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the Sadler family, his teammates, friends, coaches and Spartan Nation. We also express our deepest sympathies to the family of Sam Foltz and the Nebraska program for their loss. Mike impacted so many people not only as a football player but also from an academic standpoint and in the community, as well. The world has lost a rising star who dreamed big and was accomplishing those dreams, one after another. He was one of those people that brightened your day. I always say to try and be a light, and he truly was a light in this world. We will all miss him dearly. Once again, we find out that life is so fragile. The world will be a sadder and lonelier place without Mike Sadler in it. May he rest in peace."

"Today is a sad day for Michigan State, Nebraska and all of college football as we mourn the loss of two exceptional young men in Mike Sadler and Sam Foltz," Michigan State athletics director Mark Hollis said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and friends in this time of sorrow. Mike was the epitome of a student-athlete, excelling in the classroom and on the field, while his quick wit brought a smile to everyone's face. Most importantly, he represented Spartan Nation with great class, embracing his place as a role model for both kids and adults alike. On a personal note, he was more than just a student-athlete to me; he was a friend. His ability to make everyone feel special was but just one of his many special qualities. And that's the reason his impact will be felt by everyone who knew him for years to come. By all indications, Sam was the exact same role model for the Nebraska football family. While today is filled with sadness and reminders of the fragility of life, we can take solace in knowing that we are all better for having known Mike and Sam."

After Foltz's passing, Nebraska will not participate in Big Ten Media Days this week in Chicago.

Cubs closing in on Aroldis Chapman deal with Yankees

Cubs closing in on Aroldis Chapman deal with Yankees

MILWAUKEE – The Cubs are in the final stages of a blockbuster deal that could bring superstar closer Aroldis Chapman to Chicago and would involve sending elite shortstop prospect Gleyber Torres to the New York Yankees, a source familiar with the situation said Sunday night.

The exact details aren’t clear, but the talks reached a point where the Cubs pulled Torres from the lineup at advanced Class-A Myrtle Beach, at least sensing the strong possibility of a trade that would add a 105-mph closer to a first-place team that entered the year as World Series favorites.

Chapman began this season serving a 30-game suspension covered by Major League Baseball’s new domestic violence policy after a dispute with his girlfriend in South Florida last fall. In absorbing a supremely talented player with real baggage, the Cubs would have to believe in manager Joe Maddon’s personality and a strong clubhouse culture, figuring it might only be a two-month-plus rental before Chapman cashes in as a free agent. 

That incident scared the Cubs away during the offseason, when a Chapman trade between the Cincinnati Reds and Los Angeles Dodgers collapsed at the winter meetings as those police reports surfaced. The Yankees waited for the price to drop and acquired the flame-throwing closer at a discount. Chapman didn’t mind the spotlight in New York, converting 20-of-21 save opportunities and striking out 44 batters in 31-plus innings.

Torres is only 19 years old and a consensus top prospect, showing up in the midseason rankings on ESPN (No. 26), Baseball America (No. 27) and Baseball Prospectus (No. 34). The Cubs had signed Torres out of Venezuela during the summer of 2013, giving him a $1.7 million bonus and trying to stockpile enough assets to build a perennial contender. It sounds like it’s almost time to cash in one of those huge trade chips. 

Cubs score five runs in seventh to power past Brewers

Cubs score five runs in seventh to power past Brewers

MILWAUKEE – The franchise sensitive to being the other team in town is catching the Cubs at the worst possible time, another you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up story coming out of the White Sox clubhouse.

While Chris Sale serves a five-game suspension for playing with scissors, the Cubs will start Jake Arrieta, the National League’s reigning Cy Young Award winner, on Monday night at U.S. Cellular Field.

The perception will be hot-seat manager Robin Ventura has lost control over this White Sox season, while Manager of the Year Joe Maddon actually answered a question this weekend about how the Cubs might align their playoff rotation.

One week out from the Aug. 1 trade deadline, the debates will be which players White Sox executives Kenny Williams and Rick Hahn should sell off, and which Cubs prospects Theo Epstein’s front office should put down to buy the big-ticket item for a World Series run.

Optics, marketing and promotional throwback jerseys aside, the Cubs also appear to be hitting their stride again after a much-needed vacation, winning their third straight series out of the All-Star break with Sunday afternoon’s 6-5 win over the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park.  

The Cubs did it with their $155 million ace (Jon Lester) throwing only four innings, getting charged with four runs and giving up five walks and five stolen bases. The Cubs could also absorb one quarter of their All-Star infield (Addison Russell) leaving in the middle of the game with a left heel contusion.

[SHOP: Buy an Anthony Rizzo jersey]

The Cubs stormed back with five runs in the seventh inning as MVP candidate Anthony Rizzo delivered the biggest swing, a bases-loaded, three-run double into right-center field off lefty reliever Will Smith. 

Three sellout crowds here over the weekend watched the Cubs welcome back All-Star leadoff guy Dexter Fowler to the top of the order, give the ball to six-time All-Star closer Joe Nathan in his return from a second Tommy John surgery and keep the St. Louis Cardinals seven games out of first place heading into Sunday night and what should be a gut check for the entire White Sox organization.

“I anticipate that same wonderful crosstown rivalry kind of atmosphere, which I love,” Maddon said. “It’s great for the city. It’s great for the sport. I don’t think fans really care much about records at that particular moment. They just care about your team winning.”