Be it as a starter or out of the bullpen, Andrew Cashner looms as a big part of the Cubs‘ future. A 6-foot-6 right-hander who was taken in the first round of the 2008 draft from Texas Christian, the 23-year-old Cashner has gone from college closer to professional starter, albeit with a strict pitch count. In 24 games split evenly between High-A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee last year, Cashner posted a 2.60 ERA while allowing 76 hits in 100
David Laurila: If you had to write a scouting report on yourself, what would it say?
Andrew Cashner: It would say that I have a good fastball and a good slider. My slider is my out pitch. And then, I’m developing a changeup. I’d say that I can throw three pitches for strikes and I’m a big competitor out there on the mound.
DL: How important is velocity to your game?
AC: It helps me out a lot, but the biggest thing that’s going to help me out this year is my changeup. I mean, you get in those 2-0 counts with a big power hitter up there and he’s going to be swinging for the fence. If you can throw that changeup up there, you’re going to get a lot of ground balls out of that. Changing speeds, for me, has been a big key this year.
DL: Are you also changing speeds on your fastball?
AC: No, just my whole repertoire. My fastball is usually in a range of, oh, anywhere from like 92-96 mph, and maybe 97 sometimes. Maybe it will dip down sometimes when I throw a two-seamer, but I just really try to go after guys. I don’t try to throw any harder or slower. I just try to repeat everything the same.
DL: Can you talk a little about your changeup?
AC: I just started throwing it this year. That’s what they wanted me to work on, and I’d say that I’ve taken huge strides from the beginning of the year, when I started throwing it, to now. I mean, I feel like I can throw it in any count, no matter what the situation is.
DL: How do you grip it?
AC: I throw a circle. I kind of played around with it a little in the beginning, but I’ve really gotten comfortable with the way I’m doing it now. It’s something that…when I was in Daytona, that’s what they told me. Guys were just fouling my fastball off and they told me that I needed to start throwing a changeup more, and it’s been a big success for me. The more I throw it, the better feel for the pitch I get.
DL: Your slider has also improved. Was a mechanical change behind that?
AC: Not really. From college to pro ball, I’d say the biggest thing is that I’d throw a slider in the dirt a lot, and in college guys would swing at it most of the time, and here in pro ball guys will lay off that pitch. Now I’m getting to where I’m just aiming it in a different area. I’ll drive to that area and I’ve been able to throw it for more strikes, and I just throw it in the dirt when I need to. I’d also say that it has been more consistent since I’ve been in pro ball. I wouldn’t say that it’s gotten any better, just that it’s been more consistent as far as strikes.
DL: Are you repeating your delivery better?
AC: Yeah. I’ve kind of changed a few things up. Another thing they wanted me to work on was holding runners better and I’ve gone basically…I’m kind of trying to wean myself off of going up with my leg and having a leg kick. I’m trying to just slide step every time I’m going to home plate with runners on first, or on second, who are fast. I mean, I kind of pick my situations, but most of the time I go out of the slide step.
DL: Are you on the mound trying to miss bats and get strikeouts?
AC: When I get two strikes on a guy, I do try to strike him out. When I was a reliever at TCU, I would come into situations where you need a strikeout, but mostly I just try to make my pitches and hit my spots. But the biggest thing I try to get is ground balls. That’s what I try to live off of, because when you do get guys on-if you walk somebody or give up a hit-the chance for a double play is always there if you keep the ball on the ground.
DL: Do you have a different mentality as a starter than you did as a closer?
AC: I would say so. I would say that my mentality has changed, but I also don’t know that I’ve tried to change anything. I just go out there and try to repeat everything that I do during the week. I try to keep my routine the same and not change anything. As a reliever you have a chance to throw every single day…well, maybe not quite every single day, but if you have a bad night you can get back out there pretty quickly. If you have a bad night as a starter, you have five days to think about it. I think that’s the only thing that is really different for me. I mean, all of the in-between work between starts has been a big thing. You just have to have a good routine and stick to it.
DL: I believe that you were on a pitch count this year?
AC: Yes, I was on a pitch count all year, which was kind of frustrating, but it’s probably good for me. I don’t think I threw over 85 pitches. I had strained my oblique, so I was on 45 pitches for maybe two starts, and then I was on 65 for probably half the year, and then 85 for the rest. That really teaches you to manage your ballgame, because you know what you have. I mean, you’ve really got to make quality pitches, which is a big thing for me. And my arm still feels great, so I think it was probably a good thing for me, even though it’s frustrating when you’re throwing really well in the sixth and want to keep going. I guess it’s one of those things where maybe someday I’ll look back and say, ‘Man, I sure am glad that they didn’t make me throw more than that.’
DL: Do you know what your pitch count will be this coming season, or if your future is as a starter or out of the bullpen?
AC: I haven’t really talked to anybody about next year, so I don’t really know what the plan is for me, but I do know the plan I have for myself. I want to get to the big leagues next year and I’m going to do everything I can to get there, whether it is as a starter or as a reliever. It’s going to be a big spring training for me, I think. I have a full season under my belt already, and I’m going to come into spring training ready to go and fight for a job.
DL: Being in the National League, you’ll have to swing a bat. Do you enjoy hitting?
AC: I love hitting, actually. It’s one of my favorite things. I played a position in high school, but it’s obvious that the higher you go up, the better the pitchers are. It’s just one of those things where I take pride in my extra work, so I do a lot of bunting on the side, but if the situation calls for it and I get to swing it, I’ll be ready. I’m not that great of a hitter, though. I love to hit, but I think I better mostly focus on the mound.
DL: You’ve had an opportunity to play with Josh Vitters, both in the regular season and here in the Arizona Fall League. Can you give a brief scouting report on him?
AC: Vitters has some of the best hands I’ve seen as far as hitting. He’s got a great swing and he makes contact a lot. I mean, a lot of people get on him because he didn’t have a lot of walks this year, but whenever he gets a good pitch he drives it somewhere. He’s just got phenomenal hands at the plate. He’s going to be good.
DL: How about Starlin Castro?
AC: He’s got phenomenal defense, and he’s been hitting really well here in Arizona. He’s made some really good plays behind me this year, and it’s just fun to watch Castro play defense. On a lot of hard plays, you don’t realize how hard they are because of how easy he makes them look.
DL: If you had to face Vitters and Castro, would you pitch them any differently?
AC: It would kind of depend on what the situation was, but mostly I’d try to get ahead of them, because they both can hit. I’d try to attack them and make them hit my best pitch. That’s pretty much my approach.