It feels like forever ago that Trevor Cahill was the LA Angels Opening Day starter. As young arms flourish, the opener strategy succeeds, and much-needed reinforcements find their way back from injury, Cahill, 31, finds himself possibly on the outside looking in of a revamped Halos rotation.
It had to be Oakland. LA Angels Trevor Cahill was making his first Opening Day start since his first in 2011, whereas a 23-year old A’s ace, fresh off an All Star season, one in which the young star won 18 games, proving himself a vital piece of the puzzle for a franchise whose perpetual rebuild was seemingly nearing “go for it” status.
Cahill would be making his second Opening Day start, eight years later, in the same stadium which had been his home when he was the young star, when the sky was the limit. The eight years in between have seen injuries, trades, more trades, more injuries, a stint as a late inning reliever for the Cubs, a lost season in San Diego, and funny enough, a return to starting in Oakland, of all places.
After so many days lost to injury, so many days riding the bus in Triple-A, the goal remained the same: to get back in the rotation. To start. To stay healthy, and to regain the form that made the former Vista High star a hot commodity to scouts who would venture to San Diego County to see the young righty blow away the competition. Eight years took its toll, his velocity rarely, if ever touches 95 now. The former ace now has to be very careful with the plate.
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And thus has been the problem this year: despite some solid starts, such as his five innings, two earned runs, and eight strikeouts in a winning effort against the Brewers on April 8, Cahill has allowed an astronomical sixteen home runs in a little over fifty three innings pitched. In short, Cahill has been getting torched by the long ball in a way he never has.
Only once has ever allowed more than nineteen home runs in an entire season, allowing twenty-seven as a rookie in 2009.
In eleven starts, Cahill has yet to pitch past the sixth inning, and only in two starts has he not allowed a home run. This has contributed to his 6.92 ERA. Sadly, in many of these starts, Cahill has been solid, painting the corners, locating, and doing everything he can with his diminished abilities to control a game, only to have a home run (or two, or three) mar what was a valiant effort.
Trevor Cahill took the mound in Oakland on Opening Day twice. In both, his team lost. In the first, for the home team wearing green and gold, a 23-year old Cahill struck out eight over four and two-thirds innings, exiting the game after running up a high pitch count. He had a no decision. A young pitcher who could use his top shelf stuff to throw his way out of jams. In the second, a 31-year old Cahill would take the loss, giving up four runs in six innings.
In the time since that day, Cahill has gone from spring training feel-good story to rotation afterthought. In the days since, UCLA product Griffin Canning has become the staff’s ace in a record-setting first month for an Angels rookie pitcher. Felix Peña has hit a groove since manager Brad Ausmus has opted to use the opener, showing marked improvements in all categories.
Add to that the much-needed return of Andrew Heaney, a solid start from Nick Tropeano in his return from injury, and the Major League debut of heralded pitching prospect Jose Suarez on Sunday, the Angels suddenly don’t need Cahill or Matt Harvey if they are not going to perform.
While a six man rotation is possible with the youth and injury problems of the Angels’ hurlers, between Canning, Tyler Skaggs, Peña, Heaney, and any combination of Suarez, Jaime Barria, and Tropeano, the Angels can even achieve that task without starting either one of the veteran arms GM Billy Eppler signed in the off-season. While Harvey is on the injured list, and Barria and Tropeano are in Salt Lake City, Trevor Cahill will start Monday.
The results will go a long way to determining if Cahill will remain in the rotation, or possibly find himself in the bullpen, or designated for assignment.
Whatever happens, it seems increasingly likely the Angels’ Opening Day starter will not finish the season in the rotation.