When pundits formatted thoughts and predictions for the current baseball season, many thought the fate of the Diamondbacks lay with the pitching staff.
Nearly two weeks into the season, the projections are not terribly far removed but for negative reasons.
With starter Patrick Corbin out until next year with elbow surgery and several projected starters coming off sub-par seasons, a consensus concluded that those in the rotation would have to raise the level of their game. For the Diamondbacks to be competitive and improve over their 81 win season from a year ago, starters need to be on task to pick up an additional 10-14 victories.
That would put the Diamondbacks in the 92-95 win range and clearly in the mix for the National League West Division title.
Instead, the team is of out of the gate in wretched style and threatening to record one of the worst seasons in franchise history.
One pitcher in the forefront of improvement from his 8-10, 3.99 ERA in 25 starts of a year ago is right-hander Trevor Cahill. Though Cahill hit the 200 innings pitched plateau on his final start in 2013, little else was positive.
In concert with his losing record, Cahill suffered a right hip contusion which landed the native of Oceanside, Calif. on the disabled list from July 1 to August 17.
In addition to his sub-.500 season a year ago, Cahill tied the Rays’ Matt Moore for the major league lead with 17 wild pitches last season.
If Cahill hopes to regain the form and results from his 18-8, 2.97 ERA and All-Star game appearance with Oakland in 2010, he remains an enigma. Through his three starts this season, Cahill continues to talk about trying to “make the perfect pitch,” and has not succeed.
His latest bout with futility transpired Tuesday afternoon as Cahill helped the Giants celebrate their home opener at AT&T Park with a 7-3 victory over the Diamondbacks. Knocked out in the fourth inning and allowed five runs, all earned, and has not survived past the fourth inning in two of his three starts to date.
In those three starts thus far in 2014, Cahill is 0-3 with a blistering 7.90 ERA.
“He’s struggled with locating his pitches,” manager Kirk Gibson told MLB.com after the Tuesday afternoon game. “You have to talk to him and ask him how he feels about it.”
One thing remains certain.
Gibson and Kevin Towers, the D-backs general manager, appear on the verge of running out patience with Cahill.
Claiming his bullpen sessions are dynamic but he can’t carry those efforts into games, Cahill tends to offer more excuses than critical analysis.
“My bullpens have been better,” Cahill told MLB.com. “If you go out there and the hitter stands in, you just try and do too much. It’s something to work on.”
If Gibson pulls Cahill from the starting rotation, there’s not much behind the 26 year old. With Corbin out and top prospect Archie Bradley not quite ready for the major leagues, the Diamondbacks may not have an option but to keep Cahill in the rotation.
If Towers has tried to ship Cahill out of the desert, he’s not talking. Then again, and with Cahill’s results thus far in 2014, there may not be many takers.
In the meantime, Cahill is slated to take his next turn against the Los Angeles Dodgers this Sunday afternoon in Chase Field. That’s the same Dodgers team which knocked out Cahill after four innings in his first start of the season March 23 in Sydney, Australia.
Losing eight of their first 10 games thus far, the Diamondbacks need a healthy and productive Cahill immediately. This means a dramatic turnaround from Cahill and a transformation the Diamondbacks desperately seek.
So far in 2014, Cahill has rapidly declined in production and appears grasping for that proverbial life preserver.