The biggest competition this spring has been the competition for the 4th and 5th spots in the Cubs’ starting rotation. A prominent candidate in that competition has been Andrew Cashner. Cashner, who spent time in the minor leagues as a Starter, entered this off-season with mindset of a starting pitcher. Coming off his rookie year where he was mainly featured as a set-up man to closer Carlos Marmol. While manager Mike Quade refuses to drop any hints towards who he is leaning towards going with for the final two spots in the rotation, you can bet that Andrew Cashner will be in one of them.
According to a report from the Chicago Sun Times, one of final two spots in the Cubs’ rotation is Cashner’s to lose. In other words, unless Cashner is completely awful this spring, he will be in the starting rotation.
But as I have speculated many times before, this should come to no surprise to anyone who truly follows the Cubs. For one, Where else would Cashner fit with the Cubs? Sure he is more than capable of pitching in the bullpen, but the only open spot for Cashner would be as a long reliever. I’m sure neither general manager Jim Hendry nor manager Mike Quade want Cashner to be rotting away in the bullpen as he waits for the rare opportunity to pitch in a game. Also like I have mentioned in the past, the Cubs have already ruled out any possibility of Cashner starting the season in the minors.
Now comes the question of how successful will Cashner be as a starting pitcher? I have been on the fence about Cashner as to whether his future is brighter as a reliever, or as a starting pitcher. The reason I have been a bit skeptical of Cashner moving into the rotation is because of his lack of a third pitch. Last season Cashner threw either a fastball or a slider almost 92% of the time. Opposed to his changeup that he a threw about 8% of the time.
The encouraging sign this spring have been the reports of Cashner throwing a major league quality changeup. As Cashner gains more experience at the major league, I’m sure he will continue to incorporate his changeup into his arsenal. It is premature to look at his rookie season as any indicator for his changeup, as most rookie pitchers tend to shy away from their off-speed pitches. If Cashner continues to develop his changeup, then he should see success in the majors as a starting pitcher.
With the assumption that Cashner will be in the rotation, that leaves only one spot open in the Cubs rotation. That spot will likely be filled by either Randy Wells or Carlos Silva. If the competition is based solely on talent-which it should be- then Randy Wells will be in the rotation. However, the thing to remember is that this a business as well. With Carlos Silva making $11.5MM this season, that could be reason for the Cubs to put him in the rotation. Whoever comes out the victor between Wells and Silva, well definitely show how different Mike Quade’s Cubs are from Lou Piniella’s. We know Piniella favored the highly priced veterans, hopefully Quade focuses on the talent and not the contracts.