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.