PEORIA, Ariz. -- Andrew Cashner ran his scoreless-innings streak to nine on Monday when he tossed four shutout innings against the Rockies, though that's not the number that stood out most to his pitching coach, Darren Balsley.
Balsley was much more impressed with the nine groundouts Cashner got, as his two-seam fastball had the biggest bite it's had all spring.
"It's more of a contact type of pitch," Balsley said of the two-seamer. "The four-seamer is more of a swing-and-miss or a foul-ball type of pitch, whereas a good two-seamer can induce weak contact and balls put in play."
That's what happened on Monday, as Cashner got two groundouts in the first inning, three in the second inning, two more in the third, and then finally two in the fourth inning.
Cashner had to bear down in the third inning after opening the frame by allowing consecutive singles to Jordan Pacheco and Charlie Blackmon. He then got Michael Cuddyer to ground out before getting Carlos Gonzalez looking at a called third strike on a two-seamer. Troy Tulowitzki then grounded out to end the inning.
"Cash was really, really good yesterday," said Padres second baseman Ryan Jackson. "He looks ready [for Opening Day]."
Balsley said that Cashner's ability to command his two-seamer, more so than his four-seamer, rates as somewhat rare.
"The unique thing about Cash is he throws a two-seamer and four-seamer, but he seems to have better command of his two-seamer than his four," Balsley said. "Most guys are the other way around. That's why he was far more efficient last year throwing more strikes. He doesn't lose much velocity when he turns it loose."
Cashner needed 50 pitches to get through four innings. He then went to the bullpen to throw 10 more pitches to give him 60 for the day, as the Padres have their starters increasing their pitches in increments of 15 each successive start. Next time out, he'll likely throw 75 pitches.
Balsley sees no reason why the two-seamer, when used with his improving slider, can't help Cashner to have more efficient outings moving forward.
"It can help him stay in the game longer, that's great," Balsley said. "He's staying in the game longer. He may not punch out as many guys but his command with it is very good. The strikeouts might actually stay the same, but he might induce more weak contact moving forward."