Competition bringing out best in Cashner, Wells
Hurlers put strong efforts forward as they make bids for rotation
MESA, Ariz. -- Andrew Cashner will open the season with the Cubs and all that's left to be determined is his role with the team. Randy Wells may have secured a spot as well with his outing Tuesday.
Cashner made his second start on Tuesday against the Athletics in a split-squad game and gave up one run on two hits and three walks over 3 1/3 innings, while striking out two. The right-hander impressed Cubs manager Mike Quade in his last outing with his location. Cashner, who was used strictly in relief as a rookie last season, has shown he's comfortable starting.
"Most young guys will say, 'Yeah, sure,' and then you look them in the eye and say, 'Really? Are you really into this?' and he is," Quade said of Cashner. "That will take him a long way in his development. I think he enjoys starting. He's put his heart and soul into this, and I don't think there's something in the back that says, 'Really, I'm a reliever.' I think he's bought into this completely."
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Cashner could be in the rotation or, if he's not ready, in the bullpen on Opening Day. He needs to show he can be consistent over 100 pitches versus a one-inning relief outing. On Tuesday, he threw 71 pitches over 3 1/3 innings.
"It's not my decision," Cashner said. "I'd love to start. What I'm trying to do right now is prepare myself for the season, whether I'm starting or relieving. My pitches are all there right now -- breaking ball needs a little work, threw some cutters, and they were really good today. That's something I'm working on, too."
He may be getting help on the cutter from Kerry Wood, who has become an unofficial mentor.
As for Wells, he gave up three runs -- two earned -- on three hits over five innings against the Rockies in Mesa. The earned runs were the first off the right-hander in 14 innings. Has he done enough to warrant a spot?
"I have a lot to prove," Wells said. "I don't think you can ever do enough. If you're on that plane to Chicago, you still haven't done enough. There's a big difference between getting guys out in Spring Training and getting guys out once the season starts. We'll just keep it rolling and hopefully stay in a nice groove, keep the confidence up and stay healthy, and hopefully everything works out."
Pitching coach Mark Riggins told Wells he'll stay on schedule to pitch every fifth day. Besides showing good command, he also looks like a confident pitcher on the mound. Give catcher Koyie Hill credit for that. Wells has been working on his body language.
"You can react and get down on yourself and beat yourself up and it's important [the pitchers] don't show the club across the field how they're feeling," Hill said. "As a team, as a hitter, you see a guy who gives up a bunch of runs and continues to come after you and come after you, and you know you haven't scared him a lick."
Cubs infielder Jeff Baker joked he would sabotage Blake DeWitt in order to get the starting second-base job. Would Wells do anything to his competition?
"I wouldn't know where to start," Wells said, laughing. "That's not the way I am. Twenty-five guys go north -- or northwest."
Actually, Chicago is northeast of Mesa.
"Whatever," Wells said. "There's going to be 35 to 40 guys who contribute over the year. I don't want to put worst case scenario out there. If my number isn't called, I'll be ready to go if something happens. I'm a big believer in karma. You don't ever want to wish anything bad on anybody."
After Cashner's outing, he talked to Greg Maddux. The four-time Cy Young winner is a special assistant to general manager Jim Hendry and a great source.
"[Maddux] said, 'Three years in a row, Tom Glavine led the league in walks and he's a 20-game winner,'" Cashner said. "So, he goes, 'Walks are overrated.'"
Cashner walked three on Tuesday. When he was done talking to Maddux, he could also chat with Wood.
"It's pretty mind-boggling with those two in the dugout, the numbers they have put up and some of the years they've done," Cashner said. "Talking to those guys might help me not make a mistake that they might have made. But the biggest thing talking with Maddux is pitch selection, the swings they take off you, and certain things you might want to throw.
"You've just got to always be listening when he's talking because he's quiet, and you never know what you're going to get," Cashner said.
Maddux's advice to Wells?
"[Maddux said], 'If you win a game, 7-3, go evaluate what happened when you gave up those three runs,'" Wells said. "That's the big learning process for me, and that's the biggest thing I can take from last year. You can never not learn anything any day at the ballpark. Look at [Colorado first baseman] Todd Helton over there -- I've got the biggest respect for him. He's been playing 14, 15 years and I'm sure he learns something every day."
After Wednesday's off-day, there are two weeks remaining before the regular season begins on April 1.
"I think it's good that they have a little competition going," Hill said. "It's always good to have something to compete for."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter@CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.