CAHILL, ANDERSON OFFER TWO TALES OF BASEBALL’S ALWAYS UNPREDICTABLE JOURNEY
Ah, to be so young and
talented. As I watched cherub-like Trevor Cahill tower over a group of reporters last night in the
visitor’s clubhouse at Camden Yards after his four-hit masterpiece, it all
seemed so routine for the 22-year-old ace of the A’s 2010 staff. After polishing off the Orioles, he’s 8-2
with a 2.74 ERA, riding a personal seven-game winning streak, and making a
pretty compelling case for All-Star consideration. We’ll know if he made the team Sunday at 9
a.m. PDT when Major League Baseball announces the teams.
Yet, when I look back to spring
training, nothing seemed routine for the pitcher his teammates good-naturedly
call “Teradactyl” for his hulking, dinosaur-like physique. Despite leading last year’s club in starts
and innings pitched as a rookie, Trevor was in a battle just to stay in the
rotation. With the offseason signings of
former All-Stars Ben Sheets and Justin Duchscherer, the top two spots in the starting five were pretty
much preordained. Then add lefthanders Dallas Braden and Brett Anderson,
both poised for breakout 2010 campaigns, and by midway through our Phoenix camp
it was clear the rotation’s fifth spot would come down to either fast-emerging
southpaw Gio Gonzalez or Cahill. While Gio had been our most impressive
starter in camp, Cahill had a rather choppy spring. In fact, he seemed to fade a bit as decision
time neared for Billy Beane and David Forst. And for good reason, as we learned during the
Bay Bridge exhibition series that the big righthander was suffering from a
stress fracture of left scapula (near the front of the left shoulder).
I’ll never forget the scene
in the Coliseum clubhouse the day we announced our final 25-man roster for the
season. Cahill and Anderson, who seemed
joined at the hip as rookie buddies and roommates last year, were headed
different directions. Anderson
was penciled in to start the final game of the opening Seattle series. Cahill, meanwhile, was headed for the 15-day
Disabled List for the first time of his young career. It was a poignant scene in the clubhouse, as
Cahill and Anderson said their goodbyes.
There was almost disbelief between them.
This was supposed to be Year 2 of the Young Phenoms, starring at a Major
League ballpark near you. I’m sure they
just assumed that was the way it was meant
As the season started, Trevor
rested his unusual injury, then was activated and pitched for Triple-A
Sacramento until the end of April. During
that month in the minors, Cahill no doubt did some soul searching. Meanwhile, the other half of Oakland’s extraordinary
22-year-old tandem was flourishing. Anderson burst out of the gates with back-to-back
scoreless gems against Seattle
to christen the season, allowing only nine hits over 12 innings. But as April
began to wane, the fortunes of Oakland’s
pitching future changed
dramatically. Three days after mowing
down Cleveland over six innings in a one-run,
three-hit performance, Anderson–and
his 2-1 record and 2.35 ERA–was placed on the 15-day DL with a sore elbow and
forearm on April 27.
Ironically, his baseball soul
mate, Cahill, was recalled and flown to Toronto
three days later on April 30 for his first start of the season. He flopped badly. By the time Trevor was lifted after five
innings, he had been carved up for eight runs, including three Blue Jays home
runs. Auspicious debuts, this was not. However, before long, Cahill returned to
become the pitcher that showed flashes of greatness last year. In fact, since that early pratfall across the
border, he’s almost made a mockery of big league hitters, posting an 8-1 record
and 2.22 ERA, parceling out only 47 hits in his last 77.0 innings of work.
So as A’s fans, I suspect
your next question is, “When do Trevor and Brett reunite?” While it’s been a long path for Anderson in his rehab
process, the good news is we hear he threw 40 pitches in a bullpen session
earlier this week and all went well. His
next session may even involve hitters.
If things progress according to plan, the A’s promising lefty-right
combo may be back intact soon after the All-Star Break. In the meantime, Cahill carries the banner
with an uncommon panache for his young age.
Enjoy every minute, because it sure seems like Trevor is and of course,
he and Anderson
both realize baseball is anything but routine.
Adversity, they know from personal experience, can always be just around