PHOENIX — The eighth-inning ejections of Martin Prado and Kirk Gibson created a little excitement at Chase Field on Friday, but the entrance of Trevor Cahill after a six-week absence was been the biggest noise to come out of the Diamondbacks’ game Friday.
Cahill worked to modify his delivery during his time at Triple-A Reno, and though he was not perfect in a no-decision in the D-backs’ eventual 5-4 victory over the Cubs, he appeared on the right track.
Cahill called his new delivery a work in progress, and progress seems the right word. Cahill gave up a two-run home run to All-Star Anthony Rizzo in a three-run fourth, but also was more efficient than he was earlier this season.
Cahill threw first-pitch strikes to 16 of the 20 batters he faced in five innings, and 42 of his 67 pitches were strikes. It was his second-longest start of the season, and by far his least strenuous. He used 89, 93, 80 and 98 pitches in his four April starts, pitching past the fourth inning only once while going 0-4 with a 9.17 ERA.
That got him a trip to the bullpen and eventually the minor leagues to retool.
Cahill could have declared himself a free agent when the D-backs designated him for assignment on June 10, but instead he returned to the minors to get stretched out, determined to make it back to a starting rotation. He gave up four hits, struck out three and walked two.
"Felt pretty good, except for a little bit of nerves," Cahill said. "I was able to pitch my game. I just wanted to go as deep in the game as possible and give us a chance to win, and we won, so it was good."
In his setup, Cahill moved his hands a down from his chest a little closer to his belt in an attempt to find a more repeatable delivery, which he had during his four double-digit win seasons from 2009-13 before seeming to lose this spring. He said he is slowly getting used to it.
"I felt good out of the windup," Cahill said. "Out of the stretch, it doesn’t feel as comfortable."
Cahill cruised through the first three innings, throwing first-pitch strikes to eight of the 10 batters he faced while giving up only a walk in the second inning and a single in the third. Cahill got out of the second when he struck out Justin Ruggiano and Miguel Montero threw out Luis Valbuena trying to steal second for a double play. Starter Edwin Jackson’s ground ball single up the middle with two outs in the third was the Cubs’ first hit.
The Cubs did all their damage off Cahill in the third. After getting ahead of Arismendy Alcantara 0-2, Cahill walked him before Rizzo hit the first of his two home runs. The home run landed beyond the pool, but Cahill was more frustrated by the walk.
"That one killed me," Cahill said. "I tried to strike him out. I should have just let him put the ball in play."
The D-backs believe Cahill tries to do too much when he gets two strikes on a batter, and it is something they are trying to remedy while convincing him to trust his stuff.
"One of the things he does, even when he is throwing the ball good, he gets ahead and he starts trying to create too much movement," Gibson said. "He has great movement. That’s always been something that he has done."
Cahill admits that can be an issue, and he is working to correct it.
"A lot of that is being in the bullpen, you come in and try to throw your best stuff at them," Cahill said. "As a starter, you have to kind of pace yourself and know what kind of pitcher you are.
"Sometimes you get greedy, and you just can’t."
The D-backs believe in Cahill’s stuff and are willing to give him every opportunity to return to form in the second half. He will remain in the rotation for the short term, probably longer, as the D-backs attempt to find the man who won 10, 18, 12 and 13 games from 2009-12, the first three with Oakland and the last in Arizona.
"He’s capable of doing it." Gibson said. "He’s done it in his career. We’ll see how it goes. I can’t predict what is going to happen. Someone might get hurt. There are many different things that could happen."
Even against a shifty defense, David Peralta continues to hit. With the Cubs playing Peralta as a severe pull hitter, he doubled into the left field corner in the first inning and lined a single to center in the fourth. He has hit safely in 28 games since his June 1 recall, and his batting average has been under .300 only four days since.
35 — walks given Paul Goldschmidt since June 7, the most in the majors and 12 more than Mike Trout, who is second.
Goldschmidt and Rizzo are two of four major leaguers who had at least 30 homers from the 2013 All-Star game to the 2014 game. Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton had 35, Goldschmidt had 31 and Rizzo and Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzki had 30. Both Neither had a problem with the first post-break game Friday — Rizzo hit two homers and Goldschmidt one.