Cashner keeps his grip on Cubs rotation

Cashner keeps his grip on Cubs rotation

Monday, March 21, 2011
Posted 9:40 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

TEMPE, Ariz. It was cold, wet and windy, the conditions that Andrew Cashner will encounter at some point this season at Wrigley Field.

Cashner convinced the Cubs front office that he deserved a spot on the major-league roster with the way he finished last season, posting a 1.40 ERA in his final 18 games. But its unlikely that hes going to Chicago as a bullpen piece.

Maybe this was Cashners last chance to make an impression before manager Mike Quade, general manager Jim Hendry and their lieutenants meet Tuesday to make more personnel decisions.

But opinions began forming years ago on Cashner, the 19th overall pick in the 2008 draft. The Cubs believe he can become a front-line starter, and that projection probably trumps everything else.

On a gray Monday afternoon at Tempe Diablo Stadium, Cashners start was washed out and the game canceled with the Cubs leading the Angels 7-4 in the top of the fourth inning.

Cashner lost his grip on a few sliders and allowed four runs on seven hits and two walks across three innings. But its difficult to see him slipping away from the rotation.

Ive thrown the ball well this whole spring, Cashner said. Whatever decision they come up with, thats what Im going to do. Ive given it my best shot and I could have pitched better, but I thought I pitched well enough. So well see what happens.

Cashner hasnt dominated like Randy Wells (1.35 ERA), who accepted the challenge and seemingly established himself as the fourth starter. But the 24-year-old also hasnt been overwhelmed like Carlos Silva (15.88 ERA).

That, in essence, is the steady Cashner, who doesnt get very high or very low.

Theres so much I like about his poise, his calmness, Quade said. The stuff is there.

Its just a matter of being consistent. Cashners trying to get the feel back for his changeup, which he didnt use much out of the bullpen last year. The Cubs think it is major-league ready.

Cashner will also have to harness a fastball that runs close to 100 mph. He has to mix in three pitches for six, seven innings at a time, instead of the three batters hed face last season.

In five Cactus League appearances, Cashner still hasnt stretched out beyond four innings yet, and the Cubs will be monitoring his pitch counts to see just how deep he can work into games.

After Cashner struggled with his grip and a few sliders drifted out of the zone, he spoke with Greg Maddux, the front-office assistant who watches in uniform from the dugout and has become another set of trusted eyes.

Cashner felt like he was getting ahead of hitters, but couldnt finish them off.

I got 0-2 (and) strike one on a lot of guys and I just didnt make that pitch that I needed to, Cashner said. Thats what (I) talked to Maddux about. Hes just like: You dont have to be great, just be good.

That just about sums it up. Cashner didnt have to be perfect or pitch like a Cy Young winner this spring to get the job. The weight of the franchise isnt on his shoulders. Right now all the Cubs need is a reliable fifth starter, while hoping he becomes much more than that in the future.

PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

What will LeBron James wear to pay up on Cubs World Series bet with Dwyane Wade?

What will LeBron James wear to pay up on Cubs World Series bet with Dwyane Wade?

LeBron James is coming to town, and he will be all decked out in Cubs gear.

The Cavs are in Chicago to take on the Bulls Friday night at the United Center and it's time for LeBron to pay up on his World Series bet with Dwyane Wade.

The two former teammates made the wager during the World Series as LeBron's hometown Indians took on Wade's hometown Cubs, with the loser wearing the winning baseball team's gear when they showed up in the opposing city. This is LeBron's first trip to Chicago this season.

Wade and LeBron already acknowledged they're having fun with this and have a whole spectacle planned with a national TV audience.

LeBron told the Akron Beacon Journal he's not going to try to take the easy way out and just toss on a Cubs jersey. He is planning socks, hat, pants and possibly more. But he won't wear cleats or bring a glove with him.

[SHOP CUBS: Get your World Series champions gear right here]

When the Cubs won it all a month ago Friday, Wade posted an Instagram photo of LeBron wearing a Cubs uniform:

And ESPN had a cutout of LeBron sporting a No. 23 Cubs road gray jersey outside the United Center Friday morning:

CSN Bulls Insider Vincent Goodwill wonders whether LeBron will don signature Joe Maddon glasses, too.

This is gonna be fun, you guys.

How Jon Jay helps fill leadership void within Cubs clubhouse

How Jon Jay helps fill leadership void within Cubs clubhouse

Jon Jay raved about Albert Almora Jr.’s game when he met with Cubs executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer at Swift & Sons, the West Loop steakhouse, during the week before Thanksgiving.

This wasn’t just a free agent telling the bosses what they wanted to hear or trying too hard to make a good first impression. Jay and Almora both grew up in Miami as part of Cuban-American families and had gone through offseason workouts together, part of a group that also included Baltimore Orioles star Manny Machado.

Jay played at the University of Miami, where he developed into a second-round pick of the St. Louis Cardinals in 2006. Almora committed to the Hurricanes before becoming the first player the Epstein administration drafted in 2012.

Now the Cubs envision this as an ideal timeshare in center field, and it goes way beyond left- and right-handed matchups and the flexibility with Jay’s one-year, $8 million contract. Jay would like to influence Almora’s career in the same way that Carlos Beltran once mentored him in St. Louis.

“I’m looking forward to doing that with Albert and helping him be the best player he can,” Jay said Thursday on a conference call with reporters. “I’m honored and I’m real excited to be part of this special group, this special movement that’s going on now in Chicago.”

Jay isn’t Grandpa Rossy 2.0. Jay had actually been looking to trade in his “sports car” for a “Dad-mobile” when his pregnant wife got a phone call from the doctor saying to go to the hospital – right around the time the Cubs announced his new deal. Concerns about the Zika virus compelled the Jays to spend this offseason in the St. Louis area. By Wednesday morning, the Jays welcomed twin girls into their family.

But the Cubs certainly had a retired catcher in mind when they targeted Jay, who will be 32 next season and won’t be looking for a farewell tour.

“From a makeup and leadership standpoint, he’s got an off-the-charts reputation,” Hoyer said. “We knew that losing David Ross would be a big void for us, and bringing in a guy like Jon was something that was important to us. He can come in and complement the really good group of young leaders that we already have.

“We didn’t feel like there was that many guys that could come into a team that just won the World Series and be able to fit that seamlessly and help lead this team.

“A lot of the comments we’ve gotten from his now teammates indicate that his reputation definitely precedes him.”

[SHOP CUBS: Get your World Series champions gear right here]

In the same way that the Cubs methodically identified free agents during the rebuilding years, they will be selective about the players who will augment the team that defends the franchise’s first World Series title in 108 years.

“We’ll try to be thoughtful with which veterans we bring in,” Epstein said, “and their character and how invested they are in their teammates and winning. I hope we get the right guys, but then also I think there’s a gradual transition.

“We have a lot of young veterans now. Not just rookies, but young veterans who’ve won a championship and demonstrated a lot of mental toughness. We know how to win now, so gradually they will take control of the leadership of the clubhouse. And we’re going to give them the room to do that.”

Jay grew up with the Cardinal Way and witnessed how much the Cubs have changed since his rookie year in 2010. He earned a World Series ring with the 2011 team, the beginning of a run that saw him play in the postseason five straight years before getting traded to the San Diego Padres last winter.

Jay’s 12th and final playoff series in a St. Louis uniform saw the Cubs win the first postseason matchup in a rivalry that stretches all the way back to 1892. And will never be the same again.

“I saw everything change as soon as Theo got over there,” Jay said. “You could always see the potential that the organization had, and that showed in 2015 when they had a great year (and) they beat us.

“You could just see how the future was bright. I could see that it was going to be a special place with the atmosphere. I remember playing there in September of 2015 and just seeing the crowd, how the city really stood up and really backed the team during the playoffs that year.

“I’m just happy to join this good group of guys and try to do my part to fit in.”