And the Padres promised to give him a shot. This news came out of FanFest yesterday, as reported by Corey Brock of MLB.com. The San Diego Padres promised Andrew Cashner the opportunity to return to a starting role after this season. The 2012 season will be a healing and rebuilding year for Cashner who hurt his right rotator cuff last season. But granted he proves himself, he will be given a shot in the rotation by 2013.
How likely is a return to the rotation though? I wrote about the proposition early on after Anthony Rizzo was traded to the Cubs and was widely written off. However, if Cashner moves back into a starting role, and has some success, the trade of Rizzo suddenly seems less one-sided. Players have made the transition from starter to bullpen and back before. But most don’t do it at the start of their career. For Cashner, he will have to prove he can still show the promise that made him one of the Cubs best prospects, and he will have to show he can eat some innings. Both are difficult tasks to accomplish from the bullpen.
If the Padres use Cashner as has been previously reported, as an 8th inning set-up man, he won’t get much opportunity to prove himself. At best, he will work one inning multiple times per week. At worst, he will get limited action if the Padres once again struggle to score runs and struggle to take leads. Of course, he will get
action at other times, but not the type that will give the Padres a good representation of what he can do as a starter. A better plan would be to start Cashner as the 8th inning set-up man, and allow him to get acclimated to pitching consistently again. After that introductory period, the team could move Cashner to more of a long-relief role.
By transitioning from a one-inning type role to a two or three-inning role, Cashner will be more prepared to compete for a starting job next spring. Cashner has the stuff to be a solid starter in the big leagues, and if he can prove his health will stand up, he could be a welcome addition to a rotation that is shaping up to be one of the better young rotations in baseball starting in 2013.
Many people have already decided he has injury problems and can’t see past that to envision Cashner one day starting for the Padres. But I don’t buy that. Cashner suffered a rotator cuff injury that did not require surgery. He came back towards the end of last season and looked healthy, and he continued to look healthy in the Arizona Fall League.
In 65 innings-pitched, Cashner has averaged 8.0 strikeouts per nine innings at the Major League level. He could be the player set to replace the loss of Mat Latos‘ strikeout power. While he may not develop into an ace, he can surely move up to a number-two style pitcher who strikes out between 8-9 batters every nine innings. But first, Cashner will have to prove he has the stamina to return to the rotation. A slow introduction in 2012 will allow him to do so in 2013.