PHOENIX — The Diamondbacks designated for assignment inconsistent right-hander Trevor Cahill on Monday, but it may be only a temporary parting.
While the D-backs have 10 days to release, outright, trade or option Cahill, both general manager Kevin Towers and Cahill used the same phrase — "there is a plan in place" — in regards to the move, seeming to indicate Cahill has agreed to remain in the organization by accepting a minor league assignment if the process goes that far.
The plan appears to have Cahill move into a minor league starting rotation in hopes he can regain the form that made him a double-digit winner in four of his first five major league seasons, including his first season in Arizona in 2012.
"We have made a decision, but we are not going to announce what we have decided to do until we do it," Towers said. "We’ve talked to Trevor at length. Our hope is to retain him. We still think there is value there. Because of service time, there (are) a lot of hurdles and hoops you have to jump through."
In other corresponding roster moves prior to Monday’s series opener against the Astros, the D-backs activated right-hander J.J. Putz from the disabled list, recalled right-hander Will Harris and placed Eric Chavez on the disabled list with a sore left knee. The D-backs have 13 pitchers and 12 position players, a balance necessitated by recent heavy use of the bullpen.
Cahill, 26, is owed about $17 in million in salary and option buyouts through 2016, money the D-backs will pay unless Cahill is traded. He must clear waivers if he is outrighted, giving the other 29 teams a chance to claim him — and his contract. Cahill also has enough service time to declare free agency rather than accept a minor league assignment, but he made that sound unlikely.
It’s a move they had to make. I’ve been in the bullpen for awhile now, and I don’t think that’s where I belong. We’ll talk about it in the next couple of days and see what is best for the team and what is best for myself.
Asked if he would like to remain with the D-backs, "Yeah, definitely," Cahill responded.
"I want to be a starter, and however I get back to that, it’s whatever I have to do," he said. "Whatever is best for my career moving forward and wherever I think I belong. After everything that’s happened, they still believe I can come back and be a starter and help this team win. They’ve been nothing but supportive. I can’t ask for anything more".
Cahill is 1-6 with a 5.66 ERA in his most mystifying season. He was removed from the starting rotation in mid-April after going 0-4 with 9.17 ERA in his first four starts. He pitched better out of the bullpen.
Cahill won 10, 18, 12 and 13 games in his first four major league seasons, the last with the D-backs in 2012 after he was acquired via trade from the Oakland A’s. He was 8-10 in an injury-shortened 2013, missing seven weeks with a hip injury.
"We think his best role is a starter. I think Trevor is of the mindset he wants to start again," Towers said. "Sometimes this isn’t the best environment to get back on track. He’s still very young, and we think he can get back to where he is at. How do we get him better? What are our options?"
Cahill was acquired with left-hander Craig Breslow from Oakland for right-handers Jarrod Parker and Ryan Cook and outfielder Collin Cowgill. Parker had Tommy John surgery in 2009 while in the D-backs’ system and he underwent another elbow surgery this spring. Cook has been a reliable reliever and occasional closer for the A’s.
"I’m not one that regrets trades," Towers said. "When I make a trade, I live with it. I’ll live with this one, also. I’ll back it. I don’t watch what the other guys are doing to see if I am winning the deal. At the time, we felt we had a chance to acquire a proven winner and make us a better club. We think he can get back to where he was.
"Mechanically, he has a hard time staying in-sync. The arm slot. The hand position. A lot of moving parts. Sometimes this happens to guys early in their career. Sometimes it happens to guys in the middle of their career. It’s not unprecedented. We want to take what we view as a very valuable asset and do everything in our power to and educate him to where we think he can get again. Hope he embraces it and gets him back on track again."
Cahill acknowledged he understood.
"I want to be in the starting rotation, and I’m not going to get built up" in the bullpen, Cahill said. "It’s a move they had to make. I’ve been in the bullpen for awhile now, and I don’t think that’s where I belong. We’ll talk about it in the next couple of days and see what is best for the team and what is best for myself."
After A.J. Pollock went out with a broken hand, the D-backs have not missed a beat defensively with Ender Inciarte in center field. Inciarte covered a lot of ground to track down Jason Castro’s flyball to the fence in front of the pool area in the fifth inning, one of the several good plays he has made in the last week.
4 — consecutive starts in which Josh Collmenter has given up three earned runs or fewer.
* Chavez figured it was time. His left knee had bothered him since spring training, so going on the disabled list was probably the right thing to do. "Honestly, I should have done this about three, four weeks ago," Chavez said. "We’re going to try to let it calm down, give it a rest. We’ve done everything we possibly could other than let it chill out for a little while." Chavez, the D-backs’ top left-handed bat off the bench, does not believe surgery is required.
* Harris and Putz were put right to work, pitching the eighth and ninth innings, respectively, in their return to the roster. The D-backs’ bullpen was running on fumes coming in. Brad Ziegler, who had pitched in five of the last six games, was not available, and neither was Evan Marshall after a 34-pitch Sunday. Manager Kirk Gibson said he also wanted to stay away from closer Addison Reed, who has what Gibson characterized as a tired arm.
* Third-round draft pick Matt Railey, an outfielder from North Florida Christian High School and a Florida State commit, signed with the D-backs for a reported $603,000 signing bonus.
The D-backs have the right man on the mound against Houston on Tuesday afternoon. Bronson Arroyo is 9-1 with a 2.05 ERA in his last 12 starts against the Astros, a team he faced a lot when both were in the NL Central.