TEMPE—While Randy Wells has been pitching quietly and consistently to put himself at the front of the pack racing to be first past to pole to provide answers at the fourth and fifth slot, there's still the question of whether or not Andrew Cashner's going to wind up as the fifth man.
Whatever they chose to do with Carlos Silva, there are several organizational benefits should Cashner win the job. It would be an initial reward the Cubs' conviction that he could start all along, which wasn't a universally-held opinion when Cashner was drafted. However, Mike Quade was singing the praises of Cashner's changeup before the game. Rarely trotted out during last season's relief gig, it's now back in the package as Cashner attempts to cement the fifth slot as unannouncedly as Wells has the fourth. Reflecting on Cashner's balance with the change as part of his arsenal, "throwing 95 at the belt with good fastball command," with 10-mile separation from his slider, Quade observed that, "there's so much I like about his poise, his polish."
Beyond that, if Cashner's in the fifth slot, the role comes with the automatic benefit of being the skippable slot, allowing the organization to manage the youngster's workload. Getting Cashner beyond any of 120 IP, 500 batters faced, or 24 starts would mark career highs for the 24-year-old. In-game workload management is sure to be part of the program; if Cashner's giving the Cubs those innings and starts in the major leagues when he might otherwise be marking time in the cornfields of Iowa, running up his workload to little point, considering the Cubs rate among the four realistic contenders in the NL Central, albeit fourth.
Although it was expected that Cashner would throw about 70 or 75 pitches, that was without anticipating how the ominous weather would unfold. It was already sprinkling with the national anthem, and after squalling throughout the action, the game finally had to be put out of its soggy misery after Geovany Soto mercifully ran into a third out to end the top of the fourth. As a result, the stats don't count, so Carlos Pena's homer, Starlin Castro's triple, a pair of slick plays afield from Darwin Barney at second, all of that became effectively unrecorded. For the Angels, this game was even less of an contest. A gamelet-eyed Mike Scioscia chose discretion over valor after every at-bat, only leaving Hank Conger in for the soggy duration. Not even that could do him much good; it looks as if Bobby Wilson's got the backup catcher slot sewn up.
Nevertheless, something happened and was witnessed, by Cubs execs as well as the rain-soaked, ticketed masses. It remains to be seen how much impact it has on Cashner's bid on the job. He fell behind both big-leaguers and the spread of farm-loaned temps that Scioscia employed to avoid injury to anyone important. After the game, Cashner commented, "A lot of sliders I left up; the ball kept slipping out of my hand." A pair of strikeouts, a pair of walks, four runs, seven hits… it added up to a less-than-fair representation of anything other than a bad day on bad day.
Before the game, Quade commented about Tuesday's meeting with Jim Hendry and assistant GM Randy Bush, with an eye towards the inevitable cutdowns. "The picture will be clearer on Wednesday morning," said Quade, while also noting that in these kinds of conversations, "I've had plenty of disagreements with Jim and Randy. Those are good arguments."
A lot of Quade's engaging volubility in the pre-game gaggle focused on the state of his infield, particularly Blake DeWitt. Quoth Quade, "His at-bats haven't been as good as we would have wanted." The skipper also noted that he's worried about DeWitt's ability to turn the double play, "especially the tough double play," finally allowing that, "There are some guys pushing him." Are the bats of Bobby Scales of Scott Moore good enough to play? "Yes… there's just no way I'd rule guys out after the springs they've had."