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Knudson: Cashner Is Money for the Padres


By Mark Knudson, The Mtn. Insider
April 23, 2012

My colleague Roger Bailey asked the obvious question: “What on earth were the Chicago Cubs thinking?”

For some reason unknown to most of us, the lovable if not always rational Cubs made another trade this past offseason that leaves you shaking your head. They traded their 2008 first round draft pick, Andrew Cashner, to the San Diego Padres for first base prospect Anthony Rizzo (a sixth round pick in 2007) and pitcher Zach Cates.  Cashner had made his big league debut for the Cubs in 2010 before hurting his shoulder early in the season. He returned to make a half dozen relief appearances for Chicago late in the season before being dealt away.

What makes this trade so puzzling is that Casher - the former TCU standout - routinely hits 100 mph on the radar gun and has shown three big league quality pitches. He had a great spring and is now a key cog in the Padres bullpen and appears to have a glowing future ahead of him. Arms like his don’t grow on trees, even in rural Texas.
“How do you trade 100 mph?” Roger continued, shaking his head. I’m afraid I couldn’t answer him. I have no idea what the Cubs rationale could have been. It appears that Theo Epstein, who now runs the Cubs, really loves Rizzo.  

Regardless of the reason, the Padres now have a very pleasant dilemma. What should they do with this gift moving forward? They know he’ll be their eighth inning guy, setting up Huston Street this season. After that, it’s up in the air. Cashner has the background to become the latest in a long line of Padres standout closers. While at TCU, he dominated in a short relief role and frankly just looks the part. These days, along with learning the trade from fellow Texan Street, he gets to pick the brain of all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman on a regular basis. It’s not hard to envision Cashner stepping up to become the Padres power closer of the future.

Or maybe not. See, Cashner himself, as well as his manager, Bud Black, are intrigued with the idea of Cashner becoming a starter next season.

“We like Andrew a lot,” says Black. “He’s got a big arm. We think he’s just touching the surface of stardom. There are a couple of options here with Andrew we think. He started in the Cubs organization. He came to the big leagues as a reliever. He’s got a good delivery. Good mechanics. He’s got three pitches. There’s a lot there that looks like a starting pitcher. But there’s a lot there that looks like a closer, too.”

On one hand, you have that 100 mph heat and nasty slider to go with it. On the other, you have three quality pitches and a very repeatable delivery, which lends itself nicely to becoming a quality starter. The question is about durability. Can Cashner handle the innings load that go along with starting? His injury history suggests it’s probably better to use him an inning at a time and let him cut loose, but then you’re not getting max use out of a very talented arm. Hmmm.

“I honestly don’t know,” shrugs Cashner. “I think I could excel as a closer, or get a chance as a starter. They like me doing both things here. I just take the opportunity I’ve got and try to make the best of it. I’d like to start, but I feel like I could excel as a closer either way.”

Cashner calls himself a much more ‘polished’ pitcher now but gives a lot of credit to Jim Schlossnagle and the coaching he got at TCU. It was in the Horned Frog program that he learned about weight training and nutrition along with improving all aspects of his pitching. As a Frog in 2008, he won nine games and saved nine more as a closer, posting a 2.32 ERA. Cashner had 80 strikeouts in just over 54 innings, earning All-Conference and All-America honors.

He was certainly worthy of the first round selection by the Cubs. Now we’re left to wonder what the heck they were thinking in the Windy City when they let him go. The Padres are certainly glad they did.

See all of Mark Knudson's blog entries HERE.
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