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The Chicago Cubs recently promoted their top pitching prospect, 2008 first round pick Andrew Cashner, to AAA Iowa. In order to make room in the Iowa rotation, the team bumped their number two pitching prospect, Jay Jackson, to the bullpen. That’s not a move you see very often, and obviously indicates the Cubs’ plans for Jackson more than anything.

But what about Cashner? A reliever at TCU, the Cubs have been working to stretch him out as a starter. But the big team could probably use him as a reliever sooner rather than later. So why not work him as a reliever at AAA so that he’ll be ready to contribute in that role if he’s called up?

At one point before Cashner’s promotion to Triple-A, the organization discussed converting him back to a relief pitcher, but Cubs vice president of player personnel Oneri Fleita said on Sunday that the plan right now is to continue Cashner’s development as a starter.

“It’s all about throwing strikes for him and getting his second and third pitches over the plate,” Fleita said. “So far he has been able to do that. He’s been efficient with all of his pitches. I’ve said it many times, it’s hard to come up with guys who can throw 200 inings-plus. With Andrew that has got to be the first goal.”

Fleita said it will be up to the major league staff to decide how they will use Cashner, 23, if and when he is promoted to the major leagues.

“Obviously when a guy gets here, if [using him out of the bullpen] fits a need it does.” ESPN Chicago.

Those quotes read like a right-hand-doesn’t-know-what-left-hand-is-doing situation, but I doubt that’s the case. There’s no way that, if the Cubs wanted Cashner to work as a reliever, the minor league folks could just reject that request, and work Cashner as a starter anyway. If he’s starting, it’s because the organization – from top to bottom – wants him starting.

But what does that mean regarding Cashner contributing to the big team this year? It’s hard to say. It guarantees that, if the Cubs lose a starter or two to injury, Cashner will be among the first couple of folks tapped to spot start. It could suggest that the Cubs anticipate rotation spots opening up sooner rather than later.

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