Orioles reporters Eduardo Encina and Peter Schmuck talk about the Orioles signing of starting pitcher Andrew Cashner. (Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun video)
SARASOTA, FLA. — It is likely that no one inside the Orioles clubhouse knows Andrew Cashner better than reliever Brad Brach. As members of the San Diego Padres bullpen in 2012, they spent every day together as young relievers trying to find major league success.
The next season, Cashner moved into the Padres starting rotation as Brach continued to pitch in relief. He eventually became an All-Star after his trade to the Orioles. Now they are teammates again after the Orioles signed Cashner, an addition that gives the team a veteran starting pitcher it desperately needs.
“He’s a competitor, man,” Brach said Friday. “When he goes out there, there’s not many guys that I’ve seen out there and as fired [up] as he is. When he gets out there, he wants to have the ball. That’s the kind of guy you want on your team. That’s for sure.”
When Brach and Cashner were teammates in San Diego, Cashner’s fastball averaged 96.9 mph. But over the years, he’s learned to mix his pitches more instead of relying on power, especially last year in his only season with the Texas Rangers.
“I was with him when he was a bullpen guy and the stuff he has is electric, but it’s been pretty impressive to watch him to now to be a starter, kind of pitching to contact, which is not, when I first with him, was not the type pitcher he was,” Brach said. “I think it’s a really good pickup for us, and he’s going to be a competitor and he’s going to pitch really well this year.”
Cashner, who was at the Ed Smith Stadium complex in Sarasota on Thursday to finalize his two-year deal, is expected to attend the team’s first full-squad meeting Sunday night and participate in the first full-squad workout Monday.
Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette, speaking for the first time since Cashner’s deal became official Thursday night, said the 31-year-old’s success pitching in the American League last season with the Rangers played a large part in his desire to acquire him. Cashner finished with 4.6 wins above replacement, nearly twice his previous career high, and had a 3.40 ERA in 2017.
“He’s thrown some quality innings over the course of his career, but if you can win in the American League and grit it out against the extra hitter in the lineup and the depth of the American League, that to me is a quality pitcher,” Duquette said. “And Andrew Cashner proved he could do that last year.”
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said the same eight pitchers he mentioned would work as starters will continue to do so with Cashner’s arrival, as he tries to ensure the addition of a veteran pitcher doesn’t interfere with the group of players already in camp. But Showalter said he received some words of approval from several veterans Friday.
“I think they’re respectful of their teammates,” Showalter said. “I think this is a group that keeps their emotions publicly in check a little bit. They also have some respect for a lot of the guys who are here that are trying to win a job that [this move] might take that possibly away. But I’ve gotten some feedback from five or six guys who are going to be on the club. … Obviously, they’re excited about his addition.”
The Orioles left a few spare lockers open in the main clubhouse at Ed Smith Stadium open in anticipation of an addition like Cashner. On Friday morning, Cashner’s nameplate — he will wear No. 54 when he arrives, a number currently worn by reliever Jimmy Yacabonis — was placed on the locker next to Dylan Bundy.
“Oh yeah, they just put that there,” Bundy said looking up at the nameplate. “I guess I better get my stuff out of there.”
But Bundy, who has been thrown into a veteran role even though he’s coming off his first season of full-time starting, said he’s looking forward to learning from Cashner.
“It feels great,” Bundy said. “I think we were missing that veteran starting pitcher in years past. It’s obviously good and we’ve seen what he has done in years past, and most especially what he did last year. So it’s a good addition here.”
Before Cashner’s addition, the Orioles rotation had just two secured spots — Bundy and right-hander Kevin Gausman — and even those two pitchers have minimal experience. Cashner’s 137 major league starts are nearly as many as Bundy and Gausman combined (148 starts). Other than those two, just seven of the 33 other pitchers in big league camp before Cashner’s signing have made at least one major league start.
“He’s been in the league a lot longer than I have and I think Gausman, too. So I’ll definitely be able to pick his brain a little bit and find out what’s made him successful,” Bundy said. “It should help us [all] a lot just because he’s been around for parts of eight seasons. And I’ve only been around what, maybe three or four? He’s going to have knowledge and experience to hopefully share with us and get us better as well.”
Brach said he also sees Cashner as a strong veteran presence who will help the team’s younger pitchers.
“I think it rubs off on people whether you want it to or not. I think at some point, his personality or the way he goes about stuff will rub off on you,” Brach said. “I think he’s got a real infectious personality with them. He’s going to be a really good guy for the young guys to talk to. … He’s been a back-end reliever, he’s been a starter. He’s been really good. He’s been not so good. So I think he’s [had] a lot of experience and it can only help moving forward.
“I think he’s not afraid to kind of talk to guys, too. Yeah, he’s going to be a good mentor for them and I think the way he goes about his business, too. It’s kind of one of those we talked about when we were in San Diego. We kind of wish — when you’re younger, you just don’t realize what it takes to be a major leaguer, and we wish we took our time in San Diego a little bit more seriously. … Just getting to talk to him the last couple of years, I think he’s matured a lot and he’s definitely going to be a big help for the guys who are younger.”
Orioles pitching prospect Hunter Harvey hopes to benefit from Cashner’s experience. While Harvey is one of the eight starters in the rotation mix, he’s not likely to make the club out of camp because he hasn’t pitched above the Low-A level and is continuing to log innings after Tommy John elbow reconstruction in 2016.
"I think it's a good thing,” Harvey said. “It's never a bad thing to bring in another veteran, another guy you can learn from that has a lot of big league experience. He'd be a good guy to talk to and get some info from. … I think it's very important, being able to come to camp and just learn from guys who have been doing it and they're at the highest level. That's where I want to be and just being able to talk to these guys and learn from them, it's awesome."