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Although we shouldn’t be surprised given his re-aggravated shoulder injury, it looks like the Chicago Cubs are poised to shuffle Andrew Cashner back to the bullpen if he returns this season.

In an interview with Dave Kaplan, Cubs’ GM Jim Hendry had this to say of Cashner’s expected role:

No decision has been made on what type of a role he will have long term with us. I will leave all of that up to Dr. Gryzlo and Dr. Yocum who are treating him for his shoulder injury. I will tell you that I think that if he is out for a while it is probably unrealistic to think that he will just go right back into the rotation when he returns. When you miss a few months with an arm injury you cannot just go right back to pitching six innings or more when you return so I would think that he would be in the pen when he does come back this season.”

That’s a perfectly reasonable position, and probably the correct one for this particular pitcher. Obviously the decision will not unilaterally be Hendry’s (especially if Hendry is no longer running the show by then), but I think he speaks for the organization right now.

But, here’s the thing: unless the Cubs are truly, legitimately within striking distance in mid/late July when Cashner is ready to return, don’t let him return at all. For the love of God, don’t put any more undue strain on this kid’s shoulder just so the Cubs will have a chance of finishing in fourth place instead of fifth.

I suspect that, in such a situation, we’d all much rather see him shut down, throwing side sessions and keeping himself in shape for 2012.

Cashner has already gone from reliever to starter to reliever to starter to reliever to starter since he was drafted by the Cubs in 2008. That can’t be easy on the arm, and another transition or two should not be in the offing. Choose a role, and let him stick with it. If he’s not physically going to be able to handle starting, then make him a reliever and stick him there for good. If he can start – and there’s no doubt that his value to the Cubs is much higher as a starter – then let him get to 100% physically, even if it means he doesn’t throw another pitch this year.

  • Michigan Goat

    This just in Cashner to play a corner infield position next year… Damn this organization and young pitchers

  • awesome

    Ace:

    anything on the Angel Guzman comeback? just wondering.

    • Ace

      I’ve not heard/seen anything. In theory, he should still be throwing in Arizona right about now. Either way, the chances he contributes in the second half are slim.

  • Jeff

    No, this is not reasonable. They are moving him to the bullpen again and now saying there is a chance he will be moved back to starter later. This is more of the Cubs inept management jerking a player around and messing up his future. Every starter that gets injured goes on a minor league rehab assignment slowly working there innings total up. I highly doubt Stephen Strasburg is going to be pitching out of the Nationals pen next year, they are going to try to get him ready to start. I could be over reacting to this, but I think this is another huge player development mistake for Hendry and his regime.

    • Ace

      I know what you’re saying. I think Hendry is saying that it’s unusual for a guy to go out for three months in the middle of a season and then come immediately back to pitching full games (and my guess is that it is pretty rare, because you need a long time to work back up to full games, and usually for long injuries, that happens in the offseason). As I said in the piece, I’m not interested in seeing the Cubs jerk Cashner back and forth, and would tolerate it only if he’s ready to come back in late July, the rotation looks good, and he can help in the bullpen with the Cubs actually in the race. Otherwise, just shut him down, and let him continue starting next year.

      • http://twitter.com/thomaswconroy TWC

        I’m sorry, Ace, did you just say “wait ’til next year”?

        • Ace

          I think you’ll find I was careful to avoid saying it…

      • Joey

        Why do you say its rare to miss a couple months then go back to starting? It happens every single year to multiple pitchers. They make a couple starts in the minors, regain their stamina, and make their big league starts after a couple weeks of that.

        I would say its extremely rare when a team takes one of their long-term starters and puts him in the pen after returning from an injury. I mean, sure, when its some 38 year old minor-league contract guy they signed maybe, but “in our future” starters generally get back in the rotation upon return.

        That said, I do agree with you on not bringing him back at all though. I would send him down to A ball and let him get some short, low-pressure starts in on schedule.

        • Ace

          Few /= “couple.”

    • Michigan Goat

      This only is allowable if the Cubs need him for a WS push, and this is the delusion of Hendry. He hopes that we will be healthy when it doesn’t matter and will rush players out there to beat teams that are playing their youth and looking toward next year and guess what we will end the year on a winning streak… Sound familiar? This is Jimbo’s MO: make excuses, win when it doesn’t matter, play the people you paid too much for even when they shouldn’t be playing. We are perpetually on a one year plan that makes reactionary moves instead of having a developing plan of success under his regime.

  • Roughriider

    When, not if, Cashner is able to throw in a game again, (Pain free with no complications) it should be just as it is for spring training. He should pitch in Arizona untill he is able to throw at least 40 pitches. Then move up the ladder from A – AA – AAA until he is able to average 6 quality innings over 2 – 3 games.

    The Cubs don’t have sufficient quality on the team (at this time) to compete in the National League for anything better than 4th place. They shouldn’t risk a players career to play a little better. Marshall, Wood, Marmol and lately Samardsija are doing just fine, for the most part. The Cubs will need starters next year and Cashner should figure into that. He doesn’t need to be relieving unless that’s where they are going to leave him. Players shouldn’t be effected by going from starter to reliever and back again when they are as young as Cashner as long as thier arm is healthy. Cashners’ is obviously not. Starting forces pitchers to develop more if they are to be succesfull and that’s were Cashner should be until he proves he can’t. Like Lee Smith.

  • Michigan Goat

    You know our pitching coach, whatever his name is, is sure getting away from all this without much criticism? I honestly can’t think of a time he has commented on all the pitching issues…. As well as Rudy for all the situational hitting problems. What’s up with all that?

    • Ace

      I suspect that’s a matter of protection coming down from the top – if Jaramillo and Riggins look incompetent, those who hired them look incompetent.

      • Michigan Goat

        Exactly! Come on Ricketts time to put this lame horse down.

      • Michigan Goat

        I wish I had a job where my incompetence is covered up by the incompetence above me.

        • Ace

          Indeed. Usually, the shit flows down.

          • Michigan Goat

            Ah so that’s why this team look like shit, there is an awful lot coming down and landing on everyone

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