Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Andrew Cashner is still a ways away from returning to the major league, but speculation has already begun on what Cashner’s role will be once he returns. Coventional thinking would suggest that Cashner return to the starting rotation, but after suffering another strain in his elbow the plan may be altered. Instead Cashner may return to the area where he begun his career, and that is in the bullpen as a reliever.
For obvious reasons the Cubs are going to be extremely cautious with how they handle Cashner for the remainder of the season. Their intention is to preserve as much arm strength as possible for the long term future. In order to do so, the Cubs may place him in the bullpen to finish out the season. By doing so, the Cubs would be limiting the amount of innings Cashner throws in this season. Thus, providing a less streneous work load as he regains the stamina in his arm.
Up to this point it has only been speculation that Cashner would move to the bullpen, but general manager Jim Hendry had an exclusive interview with David Kaplan, and Hendry touched on what the future holds in store for the young pitcher.
"No decision has been made on what type of a role he will have long term with us. I will leave all of that up to Dr. Gryzlo and Dr. Yocum who are treating him for his shoulder injury. I will tell you that I think that if he is out for a while it is probably unrealistic to think that he will just go right back into the rotation when he returns. When you miss a few months with an arm injury you cannot just go right back to pitching six innings or more when you return so I would think that he would be in the pen when he does come back this season.”"
Clearly by looking at Hendry’s response, Andrew Cashner will indeed be going back to the bullpen upon his return to the major leagues. Assuming Cashner does not return until late July or early August, there is a chance that Cashner may not get another start this season.That may not be such a bad idea. Considering that the Cubs will probably not be contending for a postseason spot in the latter months of the season, there is no need for Cashner to be forced to return to the rotation. Limiting the stress on his arm figures to be the best scenario for the Cubs when Cashner returns.
The interesting part of Hendry’s comments is when he said the Cubs still do not know what Cashner’s role will be for the long term. Though, considering Cashner has made only one start it is too early to determine how much value he brings as a starting pitcher. There is no question that Cashner has an electric arsenal when he is on the mound. But the issue may be that Cashner has not fully developed a seconday pitch to go along with a live fastball. With Cashner having the ability to reach triple digits with his fastball, he could be better suited to be a closing pitcher instead of a starting pitcher in the future.
Before the Cubs decide what the future has in store for Cashner, they first have to make sure that the second year pitcher is fully recovered from his elbow strain. Hopefully, Cashner is able to return sooner rather than later. Though, the current timetable puts a return for Cashner after the All Star break but before the trading deadline.