Pain-free: Cashners optimistic about recovery

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Pain-free: Cashners optimistic about recovery

Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Posted: 2:26 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

The comparisons were already out there, the next big thing from Texas throwing 100 mph heat. When a reporter mentioned it to Kerry Wood, the response came just as fast: Dont do that to the kid.

This was during spring training, as Andrew Cashner built up his arm strength trying to become the frontline starter the Cubs envisioned.

The 24-year-old looked like he belonged in his first big-league start on April 5, but left suddenly in the sixth inning. He didnt even shower and went directly to Northwestern Memorial Hospital for an MRI.

Cashners staying positive as he deals with a strained rotator cuff. Hes taken advice from Wood, who had to reinvent himself after a series of injuries. Hes been listening to Ryan Dempster, who came to the Cubs months after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

The biggest thing guys tell me is keep working hard, Cashner said.

Cashner and Randy Wells (forearm strain) will begin a throwing program on Friday and be examined again on April 27 before the Cubs leave for their next road trip.

Club officials do not want to make projections about when they might return to the rotation because, as Cashner said, (with) a timetable you kind of set yourself up for failure.

In the meantime, Cashner will keep working on his shoulder, using bands to strengthen his arm and running as much as he can to get into even better shape.

I always get anxious to get back out there and get going, Cashner said. Its just kind of one of those things (where) I have to sit and wait for a time to throw. I want to be healthy more than anything. You dont want to feel any pain and right now I dont feel any pain.

The Cubs would have been forced to monitor and manage Cashners workload even if he hadnt gone on the disabled list. He had pitched only 177.1 innings across parts of three minor-league seasons before getting promoted last year and becoming a power arm out of the bullpen.

When the Cubs made Cashner a first-round pick in 2008, they loved his smooth, easy delivery and judged him to be less likely to break down. They are still cautiously optimistic that he will be a factor this season.

For his part, Cashner is blocking out any negative thoughts or doubts or fears that this could have long-term consequences.

I dont try to think too much about that, Cashner said. The more you think about something, you start to worry about (it). Im just trying to get it healthy and get back going again.

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Kyle Schwarber catching again is a good step for a banged-up Cubs team

Kyle Schwarber catching again is a good step for a banged-up Cubs team

MESA, Ariz. – The Cubs are so strong up the middle that Javier Baez can star for Team Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic and return to camp as a super-utility guy/late-game defensive replacement. 

But that projection in late March is based on across-the-board health, which never happens in a 162-game season. World Series MVP Ben Zobrist (stiff neck) hasn't played in a Cactus League game in almost a week. All-Star shortstop Addison Russell (stiff back) became a late scratch to Friday's lineup at Sloan Park.

After trying to make a diving catch in center field, Albert Almora Jr. exited in the third inning of a 4-2 loss to the Cleveland Indians with what the Cubs called "left neck tightness," though he still plans to play in Las Vegas this weekend.  

On the other side of the spring-training complex in Mesa – away from the crowd of 15,473 in a minor-league game against a Colorado Rockies squad – the Cubs did get a positive piece of news on the health front: Kyle Schwarber went four innings behind the plate, going Tony Pena style and trying to reduce the stress on his body.

"I love catching," Schwarber said. "Whenever I played baseball, I was always a catcher. For me to be able to do that today – and feel pretty good about myself walking away from the day – it was a good step."

This is clearly important to Schwarber, an intensely driven personality who doesn't want to hear "no." Otherwise, the Cubs probably would have shut this down already, not wanting to risk it with a franchise player, someone who might blast 35 homers at the top of their lineup.

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But the medical staff cleared Schwarber when pitchers and catchers reported to Arizona – 10 months after he underwent surgery on his left knee to reconstruct his ACL and repair his LCL – and it could become a valuable skill again. 

"The most difficult part I would probably say was setup-wise," Schwarber said, "trying to find that timing of your moves and everything like that. Sometimes I felt like I was a little late getting my setup. But that all came. It's been a year since I got behind there, so overall everything went really well."

The Cubs already have one of the best young catchers in the game (Willson Contreras) and a two-time All-Star making $14 million this season backing him up (Miguel Montero). Schwarber doesn't want to put a number on how many starts he might make behind the plate, though the Cubs have framed it as in case of emergency, an extra late-inning option for manager Joe Maddon or maybe something that makes sense with a particular matchup. 

"As of right now, it's still the third-catcher role," Schwarber said. "I'm down for whatever, but I know the majority of the time is going to be out there in left."

Joe Maddon offers up Cubs strength coach to be Madonna's trainer

Joe Maddon offers up Cubs strength coach to be Madonna's trainer

MESA, Ariz. — Think the stir-crazy Cubs have been in Arizona long enough? Near the end of a camp that has been relatively tame — at least compared to last year's parade of mimes, zoo animals and karaoke jams — manager Joe Maddon heard about Madonna's contest to find a new dance trainer and immediately thought of the man behind those gonzo stunts.

Because that's what a three-time Manager of the Year does. So the organization's content arm put together a one-minute clip nominating strength and conditioning coordinator Tim Buss, releasing it to 1.7 million followers on Friday through the @Cubs Twitter account.

"We're hoping that Madonna has an opportunity to check that out," Maddon said at the Sloan Park complex. "We're willing to send even more information — whatever she possibly needs — to see that our guy's the best."

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Set to synthesized 1980s-style music, the aerobics video is rated more PG than the actual "Bussy" experience. The Cubs didn't show Buss leading the team stretch in a Speedo and a Lucha Libre mask. A slow-motion part of the montage does feature Buss standing alone in the clubhouse, dousing himself in beer during a clinching celebration.

"We could have made it more edgy," Maddon said. "There were so many more ways to go with it. I was kind of pleased with it. I thought it presented his abilities very well. His physique was presented in a manner that she could be duly impressed with the fact that our strength and conditioning coach fashions that form."

What if Madonna steals Buss from the Cubs?

"We could share somehow," Maddon said. "She'll fire him after a couple weeks anyway."