Padres expecting career year for Cashner

Righty starter hopes to put disappointing 2015 behind him

Padres expecting career year for Cashner

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Padres manager Andy Green didn't mince words Saturday when he was asked what kind of season he was counting on pitcher Andrew Cashner to have in 2016.

"I think the expectation [longtime pitching coach] Darren Balsley and I set for him is that this is going to be the best year of his career," Green said.

"And he's buying that."

Cashner comes to camp with a spot sewn up in the rotation -- he'll follow the Opening Day starter, Tyson Ross, and James Shields -- in his final season before hitting free agency.

• Padres Spring Training: Tickets | Schedule

And if you think Green's hopes are high for the 29-year-old right-hander, consider that Cashner himself feels primed for a breakout season following what was a disappointing 2015 when he lost 16 games.

"For where I'm at, mentally I feel great. Physically I'm great and ready to get the ball rolling," Cashner said.

Cashner approached Balsley after last season about making a few fixes in terms of his mechanics; small things that he hopes can help him in 2016. He has added a slight hip turn in his delivery for deception and worked on his balance.

There's also been a slight change in terms of hand positioning on the ball that will help him get on top of the ball more, which Green said will help "sink the ball a little more."

Green came away from Cashner's bullpen session Friday impressed with how good his changeup looked. Cashner only used that pitch 9.8 percent of the time last season, according to FanGraphs. Cashner used his changeup 21.6 percent in 2012 and 19.3 percent in 2014.

"That was the best bottom I've seen to his changeup in the last few years," Green said of Friday's bullpen. "… Those are exciting things to see. You go back a few years and that was a major secondary pitch for him. It wasn't at the level where he wanted it last year."

Cashner is coming off a season that saw him make a career-high 31 starts and set a career-high in terms of innings (184 2/3) as well. This season, he has his eye on reaching the 200-inning plateau and trained for that accordingly.

"I've put on 20 pounds this year, my frame's bigger," said Cashner, who weighs 240 pounds, up from 220 at the end of last season. "I just feel like I'm more able to sustain 200 innings, that's what I've been trying to get to."

A year ago, Cashner had a 4.34 ERA and allowed 22 unearned runs, the result of a porous defense behind him. Opponents had a .335 BABIP (batting average on balls in play), which may have led to him being a little unlucky at times.

"I think for me the ball was just too much in the middle of the plate, too much in the hitting zone, too much up. But I think a lot of errors behind me was definitely frustrating too, but it's out of my control and I've just got to make better pitches," Cashner said.

Green said he and Cashner have watched video from when he's pitched well, and it was his Opening Day start in 2014 against the Dodgers -- when he allowed one run over six innings -- that impressed Green.

"We went back and watched a lot of video on how he was attacking hitters that day," Green said. "He was out of the chute with phenomenal stuff. It's kind of the type of movement we want to see on the baseball moving forward."

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