Fans like the slugger when he's putting up big numbers, but they love the guy who gets his uniform filthy day-in and day-out, regardless of what his stats look like. The Padres have had a rich history of such all-out overachievers, from the Enzo Hernandezes and Chris Gomezes to the Eric Owenses and Chris Denorfias of the world. However, the current Padre who most exemplifies this trait is neither a diminutive infielder or a spindly-armed outfielder. It's a 6'6", 225 lb. tree of a starting pitcher: one Andrew Burton Cashner.
I know that defies all pre-ordained conceptions of the premise, so bear with me. Cashner certainly doesn't lack for physical talent, so his scrapgrit isn't a necessity to keep him on the roster. Instead it's a confidence that he can help in ways he's not expected, combined with the attention span of a seventh grader who sprinted out to catch the bus without taking his Adderall. As active as he is in the dugout on his days off, whether it's being the first in line to high-five the guy who just crossed the plate or keeping the mood light with practical jokes, it's no wonder his managers have sent him out to pinch-run so often: He seemingly refuses to prescribe to the long-established "just pitch; let us worry about the rest" station in life.
Unable to sit idly like the Maytag repairman, Cash is always up for pitching in without, you know, pitching. He is the Padres' go-to pinch-runner, with six appearances in that role this season alone. All other Friars have combined to pinch-run seven times. What was one a novelty has recently grown into a secondary role. Former skipper Bud Black put him on the paths in a pinch five times from the 2013 season until he got canned this summer, but since Pat Murphy took over as interim manager on June 16, he has employed Cashner as a pinch-runner five of the seven times he's used one- and one of the other times was in a game our guy started.
Cashner isn't among the better-hitting pitchers in the game, but he combats his ineptitude with hustle that would make David Eckstein blush. Whereas most pitchers generally half-heartedly run toward first base and peel off to the right after about 70 feet, Cash runs like a freshman trying to make the varsity team. Everything your little league coach preached is on full display: head down, maximum effort, and not slowing down until he's crossed the bag. It's a thing of beauty and, quite frankly, makes me think less of any player who doesn't take this approach, pitcher or not.
In addition to his day job on the hill and his moonlighting gig as fresh wheels off the bench, Cashner has been used as a left fielder for one out and as a pinch hitter twice, although I imagine that represents about one percent of the times he's lobbied for it. The guy just wants to win ballgames and believes he's the man for the job, regardless of what that job is. Of course I suppose it's altogether unsurprising that someone who spends his winters trudging through muddy woods while drenched in deer urine would be drawn to the dirty work on a baseball field.
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