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.

Sore Adam Eaton out of White Sox lineup for several days

Sore Adam Eaton out of White Sox lineup for several days

CLEVELAND — Adam Eaton feels sore everywhere and chances are slim he’d play again before he is re-evaluated on Monday when the team returns home.

But the White Sox outfielder said Saturday afternoon that he felt better than he did Friday when he was cleared for a concussion after crashing into the outfield wall making a fantastic catch.

Eaton, who left in the sixth inning of Friday’s game, said he stayed down on the ground for several minutes after he knocked the wind out of himself. Manager Robin Ventura mostly ruled Eaton out for Saturday and Sunday after his hip, shoulder and back were all involved.

“If anybody has ever been in a car accident, it’s kind of the same thing,” Eaton said. “It’s taking inventory of the body parts and making sure everything is back to where we’re supposed to be, and as soon as that is accounted for, we’ll get back out there and play again.

“It seemed like I passed (the concussion test) pretty well.”

Whereas early in his career the White Sox asked Eaton, who played as if his hair were on fire, to dial it back, Ventura appreciated the outfielder’s effort. Not only was there a possibility Eaton could get to the ball, he made a fantastic grab before slamming into the wall. Ventura applauded how much progress Eaton has made in knowing when and when not to go all out in the name of his own safety.

“He’s been a lot better,” Ventura said. “He would run after balls that were probably 10 rows deep. …

“Before he was just out there running crazy and right now he has a better understanding of what he can get to. Last night was just a great play, he runs into the wall and gets himself banged up.”

Staying on the field has made Eaton an extremely valuable asset for the White Sox. Not only is he a strong candidate to win a Rawlings Gold Glove, Eaton has a .791 OPS in 683 plate appearances. He headed into Saturday seventh among the American League position players with 6 Wins Above Replacement. And he has proven versatile with the ability to play right and center field and hit in several spots in the lineup.

“When you look what he does … he’s been pretty dang valuable,” Ventura said.

Eaton feels like part of the value he brings is his willingness to go all out for his teammates. He doesn’t intend to slow down any more than he already has. Eaton said Saturday he was a little ticked by some of the responses he received on social media after the play, feeling like he would have heard criticism if he had backed off.

“You play hard and then all of a sudden you get hurt playing hard and then people have a problem with it and then they say you should play hard,” Eaton said.

“Instead of choosing my body, I chose my team. People can curse me for it, but the day that I backpedal and let the ball hit off the wall is the day I’m going to quit baseball.”

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