Hey guys, I was looking in my notes, and totally overlooked a conversation I had with a guy from TCU...
So, I was in the hotel's "game room" where everyone places bets on sporting events, and I'm sitting in a lounger by my buddy, when some other guy sits right next to us. We introduce ourselves, blah, blah, blah...
Come to find out, this was one of TCU's baseball announcers sitting next to us. He was there looking for a job in professional baseball broadcasting. When I learned that he was with TCU, I immediately identified myself as a Cubs fan, and we started talking about Cashner.
Here's a summary of that conversation:
-he was actually drafted higher (20th round) by the Braves out of high school than he was in college the first time (29th round) by the Cubs in 2007
-he first attended some junior college (I don't have the notes on where he attended though)
-in between 2007 and 2008, he was recruited by TCU to transfer early on. Then, after he pitched in this JUCO all-star game, Texas A&M came crawling to him, but he said thanks, but no thanks, because evidently they had offered a scholarship before his breakout season, then yanked it, so he was kind of put off by them.
-anyhow, so the announcer was telling me that Cashner was pretty much lights out for TCU as a closer
-Cashner landed the job by default, because TCU had no depth in the pen
-he was throwing 90-93 as a starter, then 97-99 mph as a closer, which kind of jumps out at you, and makes you wonder, because that's QUITE a descrepancy there. I know from personal experience, where I was throwing in the mid to upper 80's, like 86-88 as a starter, then 90-92 as a closer, but that's a freaking 7-9 mph jump instead of the 4-6 mph jump that I, and many others have experienced before that I know of....it really makes me skeptical, especially since he basically came out of nowhere.
-the announcer was telling me that he struggles at times with command, which certainly won't help him if Piniella is still around
-additionally, he was telling me that TCU played Texas A&M, and Cashner was all jacked up for the game, and asked the coach to start (I can't remember if he said he did or not), but he basically shat himself, and didn't do well at all. Why do I mention this? Well, for him, it was a BIG stage to prove himself against a team that obviously wasn't that high on him, and he laid an egg...I know nerves/emotions can get the best of some people, but could this be indicative of his mental capacity to handle the closer's role. I remember Wilken saying after they drafted him that they weren't sure of his role. Well, obviously Wilken is an idiot, because putting a righty that throws 90-93 in the starter's role and 97-99 in the relief role, obviously isn't going to get him to the bigs as a starter. Righties that throw 90-93 with average stuff don't last long in pro-ball, so it would be in the Cubs' best interest to keep him in a relief role. And judging by his stats thus far, where he has a combined starts, 20 IP, 24 hits, 17 runs, 12 earned runs 23 walks, and 19 K's, it DEFINITELY shows they should move him back to reliever
-finally, the announcer even said that he'll make you frustrated at times, and ecstatic at other times. He said that he doesn't quite know what to make of him, but that he's the best pitcher he's seen come out of that program in terms of raw talent in a long time.
***my thoughts on this (besides ones I interjected along the way above):
I believe if the Cubs keep Cashner in a relief role in the minors, that he will move up in the system really fast, and we could see him as early as this year if he does well, and we have a need. It appears that this kid's psyche is really delicate, and we cannot be moving him back and forth between starting and relieving, as it will ruin his confidence. At best, this kid is no more than a solid set-up man at the MLB level. I might eat crow one day, but I believe it takes a certain mental make-up to succeed in the closer's role, and I do not believe that he has it. He has the tools to be a stand-out reliever, kind of in the mold of a younger Bob Howry, but as Bob found out, Keith Foulke had a better make-up than he did, and Howry couldn't match that. You can see it in the eyes of pitchers....they seem to focus way more in the role than any other guy. I could see it in Dempster's eyes that he'd bomb as the closer---he just didn't have that bulldog intensity that you need. You could see with Wood and Marmol, that both could excel in that role because of their intensity and the way they attack even the best hitters. Dempster would nibble....which led to walks, and led to runs....you can see the same thing in Cashner, where, either he figures out a third pitch and becomes an effective starter, or he continues throwing fireballs as a reliever, as offers far less pressure than a closer.