Orioles and Cashner need Saturday's gopher balls to be an aberration and not a trend - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Dan Connolly

Orioles and Cashner need Saturday’s gopher balls to be an aberration and not a trend

This obviously wasn’t what Andrew Cashner wanted from his Orioles debut.

The big right-hander, whom the Orioles signed to a two-year, $16 million deal in February to help stabilize the rotation, lasted five innings and allowed five runs (four earned) in the Orioles’ 6-2 loss to the Minnesota Twins at Camden Yards.

One game is one game.

In the big picture, nothing really can be gleaned from Cashner’s outing Saturday.

But there is one nugget of concern: Cashner allowed three homers in his O’s debut. That’s concerning because we all know balls fly out of Camden Yards, but that usually doesn’t start in earnest until the heat and humidity kick up in the summertime.

It’s also concerning because Cashner was coveted by the Orioles because the sinkerballer doesn’t give up lots of longballs. He surrendered just 15 last year in 166 2/3 innings while pitching half his games in hitter-friendly Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas.

The most he has allowed in one season in his career is 19 in 2015 – and he was third in baseball among all qualifiers in homers per nine innings last year (0.89). He hadn’t allowed more than two in a game since serving up four to the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 8, 2016 while he was with the San Diego Padres.

Keeping the ball in the park is his calling card. And that’s huge for someone who is going make a living at Camden Yards.

And then he allows three homers in five innings Saturday.

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“Yeah. I mean, it’s frustrating,” Cashner said. “It’s a small park, but I feel those balls, if they go a couple inches in or a couple inches away, it’s an out. It just comes down to making better pitches.”

In baseball terms, Cashner said the homers were products of not getting more on top of his sinker. The pitches, consequently, were elevated and found too much of the plate.

He said he wasn’t surprised that the balls flew out on a cold night in Baltimore.

“I’m just surprised that a few of my sinkers didn’t run more, but other than that, it’s baseball,” Cashner said.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter stressed that he views Game 1 of the Cashner Era as a blip.

“As the season goes on, guys will reach for their track records, especially a guy like Cash,” Showalter said. “I don’t dwell on it a whole lot. He feels good, he had a good spring. A little late start, but I think he’s only going to get better and better.”

That’s the hope. And there’s no reason Cashner can’t be a whole lot better.

When a sinker isn’t sinking properly, bad things can happen. That can happen to anyone.

So, dismiss this for now as just one shaky start for Cashner.

But keep an eye on the home run totals. Because as we head into summer, that’s something that all pitchers at Camden Yards have to handle.

The hope, and the reason the Orioles opened up their wallet for him, is that Cashner was built for this place.

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