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.

Jake Arrieta expects Cubs to have the best rotation in baseball

Jake Arrieta expects Cubs to have the best rotation in baseball

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Jake Arrieta is a Cy Young Award winner who won't get the Opening Night assignment. John Lackey is a No. 3 starter already fitted for his third World Series ring. Kyle Hendricks led the majors with a 2.13 ERA last year and won't start until the fifth game of this season.  

Do you feel like this is the best rotation in baseball?

"We're up there, yeah," Arrieta said after homering off Zack Greinke during Thursday afternoon's 5-5 tie with the Arizona Diamondbacks at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. "I think on paper – and with what we've actually done on the field – it's tough to not say that.

"We like the guys we have. People can rank them, but time will tell. Once we get out there the first four or five times through the rotation, I think you can probably put a stamp on it then, more so than now. 

"But, yeah, we stack up just as well as anybody out there, for sure."  

Arrieta made it through five innings against the Diamondbacks, giving up three runs and eight hits in what figures to be his second-to-last Cactus League tune-up before facing the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on April 4. 

The New York Mets blew away Cubs hitters with their power pitching and game-planning during that 2015 National League Championship Series sweep. The Washington Nationals are trying to keep Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg healthy and already watched Tanner Roark deliver for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. 

The Cubs dreaded the idea of facing Johnny Cueto in a possible elimination game at Wrigley Field last October. The Los Angeles Dodgers almost became a matchup nightmare for the Cubs with lefties Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill during the 2016 NLCS.

But slotting Hendricks at No. 5 – five months after he started a World Series Game 7 – is a luxury few contenders can afford. 

"That just speaks to our length in the rotation," Arrieta said, "and being able to keep relievers out of the game, longer than most teams. That's a big deal, especially when you get into July and August. 

"Obviously, Kyle could be a 1 or 2 just about anywhere. Not that he's not here. We've got several of those, which is a good problem to have. It's going to be favorable for us when there's a No. 4 or No. 5 guy in our rotation going up against somebody else's. Our chances are really good, especially with our lineup." 

Arrieta talked up No. 4 starter Brett Anderson as "a little bit like Hendricks from the left side" in terms of his preparation, cerebral nature and spin rate, a combination that makes him an X-factor for this rotation and an organization starved for pitching beyond 2017. 

The if-healthy disclaimer always comes with Anderson, who played with Arrieta on the 2008 Olympic team and has been on the disabled list nine times since then. Coming out of high school, Arrieta initially signed to play for Anderson's father, Frank, the Oklahoma State University coach at the time, before going in a different direction in a career that wouldn't truly take off until he got to Chicago. 

"We're all looking forward to seeing how we pick up where we left off," Arrieta said. "Judging by what we've done this spring and the shape guys are in and the health – I don't see any reason we can't jump out to an early lead like we did last year and sustain it throughout the entire season."
 

Cubs Talk Podcast: The making of Reign Men

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Cubs Talk Podcast: The making of Reign Men

In the latest Cubs Talk Podcast, Kelly Crull sits down with CSN executive producers Ryan McGuffey and Sarah Lauch, the creators of 'Reign Men: The Story Behind Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, which premieres March 27 at 9:30 p.m. on CSN.

McGuffey and Lauch share their experience making the 52-minute documentary as they sifted through hours of sound from the likes of Joe Maddon, Theo Epstein, Jason Heyward, Anthony Rizzo and more recapping one of the greatest baseball games ever played.

Plus, hear a sneak peak of 'Reign Men’ as Heyward and Epstein describe their perspective of the Rajai Davis game-tying homer and that brief rain delay that led to Heyward’s epic speech.

Check out the latest Cubs Talk Podcast right here: