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Cashner taking something off to go deeper

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BALTIMORE -- Less is apparently more. At least that's how Andrew Cashner feels about velocity and being able to work deep into a game.

On Tuesday, Cashner pitched 7 1/3 innings in a no-decision against the Orioles, the second time in as many starts he's gotten 22 outs.

Better still, Cashner needed only 77 pitches to get through seven innings. He finished with 92 pitches.

"I think a big thing for me this year is not trying to air it out," Cashner said. "I'm not trying to throw 100 mph."

In fact, Cashner is averaging 95 mph on his fastball this season, down from an average of 98 mph a year ago when he split time between the bullpen and rotation.

And Cashner has been using his two-seam fastball and his knuckle-slider more frequently, and he has created a greater speed differential with his changeup, which is down to an average of 85.7 mph this season from 87.4 last season, according to Pitch F/X.

So the days of Cashner reaching 100 mph might be gone, but they've been replaced by starts where he's more efficient and able to work deeper into a game.

"When you back off a pitch, [that] doesn't mean you're going to have better control with it," said Padres pitching coach Darren Balsley. "But a workload for a starter, if you're going to throw 100 pitches every five days, your velocity is probably going to go down a couple miles an hour."

In his last two starts, against the Marlins and Orioles, Cashner has allowed one earned run on nine hits and four walks over 14 2/3 innings. He's 2-2 with a 2.51 ERA in five starts and opponents are hitting .218 against him.

Cashner is performing like the Padres hoped he would when they traded first baseman Anthony Rizzo to the Cubs for him, and they always envisioned him as a starting pitcher.

"I see him executing pitches. I see him preparing better between starts. I see him becoming a starter in every facet, as far as film study, good bullpen, just overall preparation," Balsley said. "I think he's learned how to prepare as a starter."

Balsley isn't worried in the least that Cashner's strikeouts-per-nine-innings ratio has dropped from 10.10 to 6.39 this season.

"As for strikeouts, they'll come. They come in bunches. He'll be close to one per inning by the end of the season," Balsley said.

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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