Cashner focused on job in Padres bullpen
(Eds: Adds details, quotes. With AP Photos.)
PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) - San Diego Padres reliever Andrew Cashner wants to think about the year ahead not a 2011 season mostly lost to injury.
Cashner, who was acquired from the Chicago Cubs on Jan. 7 in a four-player deal that sent top prospect Anthony Rizzo to the Cubs, said his primary focus is to earn a late-innings role in the Padres bullpen.
He's not concerned with being a starting pitcher. He doesn't want to determine why he wasn't able to pitch in all but seven games last season. Cashner only wants to help the Padres fill the void left by the trade of setup man Mike Adams to the Texas Rangers in July.
"It's over with,'' Cashner said. "It's in the past. I'm not really thinking about it too much. I'm focused on what's going on right now.''
The Padres believe Cashner could potentially play a big role in the bullpen this season.
Gone are Adams and closer Heath Bell, who signed a three-year deal with the Miami Marlins this offseason. Along with Cashner, the Padres added closer Huston Street in a trade with the Colorado Rockies. Cashner is expected to compete with returnees Luke Gregerson and Ernesto Frieri for a specialist role in what has been a dominant bullpen the previous three seasons.
General manager Josh Byrnes said the Padres think Cashner, who was out from April 5 until Sept. 9 with a strained right rotator cuff, is healthy and worth the risk.
Byrnes said the Padres scouted Cashner four times after he returned in September. Their belief has only been confirmed by medical reports and the way Cashner is throwing this spring, Byrnes said.
"There's some risk any time a guy missed a good chunk of a year, but we're comfortable with both the scouting side and the medical stuff,'' Byrnes said. "He has a good chance to be healthy. He's throwing the ball great and feeling good. Even going back to January and the stuff we did, his offseason has been completely normal.''
With a fastball that can top 100 mph, Cashner has averaged eight strikeouts per nine innings throughout four professional seasons. Thus far, he's impressed his Padres teammates and coaches with a four-pitch arsenal.
"His stuff is so overwhelming,'' catcher Nick Hundley said. "We just have to make sure he's out there healthy and let him run with it. Here you go. Don't hold back. He can be real successful for us.''
Cashner said good health and the energy in the Padres' clubhouse have led to an enjoyable spring. He also has been able to work on keeping his fastball down, which he believes will be a key to his success. Though the Padres think he could one day pitch in their rotation, Cashner said he will worry about that later.
"I feel great,'' Cashner said. "Right now all my focus is on the bullpen. If another opportunity comes up, it comes up. My goal is to win the seventh or the eighth inning job this year.''
Should Gregg Popovich be blamed for Game 6 loss?
How will momentum factor into Game 7 for Heat and Spurs?