Hard-throwing righty Andrew Cashner made 53 relief appearances for the Chicago Cubs last season.
But Mark Riggins, the team’s first-year pitching coach, believes strongly that Cashner’s future is in the Chicago rotation.
And that could happen as early as this year.
“I saw him start in the minor leagues,” Riggins said Wednesday. “I think he could really be a great pitcher. I’ve been around and worked with a lot of minor-league pitchers. A kid with that ability doesn’t come around very often. His ability is top 10 for me that I’ve ever seen, in all my years of work.
“He has ability. It’s a matter of harnessing that ability. You want to give him time to get the most out of himself. Hopefully, it’s this year. That’s what we’re hoping for. Obviously, what he did last year is still huge. We know he can do that. We want to try the other avenue and see what becomes of this.”
Cashner, 24, debuted in the majors on May 31 of last year. He struck out nearly one batter per inning and finished the season with a 4.80 ERA. Riggins indicated that Cashner is a virtual lock to make the Opening Day roster, in one role or the other.
“From what he did last year,” Riggins said, “he’s a guy.”
This spring, Cashner will be among the 10 pitchers who are “stretched out” by the Cubs in order to build up enough stamina to start. Matt Garza, Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster are assured of spots in the rotation.
In addition to Cashner, the other candidates include Randy Wells, Carlos Silva, Braden Looper, Todd Wellemeyer, James Russell, and Casey Coleman.
“We don’t want to miss anybody that might be a guy,” Riggins said. “Spring training is the time to find that stuff out.”
— Jon Paul Morosi