Another ‘frustrating’ outing for Cahill, another loss for D-backs

PHOENIX — No one is more frustrated in the way Trevor Cahill is pitching than Cahill himself. Like every Diamondback, he wants to be the player to begin the turnaround from a disappointing start, now 4-11. 

It did not happen Sunday, when the Dodgers and tormentor-in-chief Adrian Gonzalez left Chase Field with an 8-6 victory and a three-game sweep, and it leaves the D-backs in a precarious position of trying to determine how to attack the problem of Cahill generally and the starting rotation as a whole.

Diamondbacks starters have a league-worst 7.18 ERA after Cahill gave up six earned runs in four-plus innings on Sunday, when their dilemma presented itself clearly. Cahill mixed three pitches and was dominant at times. He struck out eight, and his curve was particularly effective.

He just couldn’t get through the third inning, when the Dodgers had three hits, three walks, three stolen bases and a three-run homer from Gonzalez, who was 7 for 13 with three homers and 10 RBIs in the series.

"I’m not trying to be rude to you guys, but I don’t have an explanation for it," manager Kirk Gibson said. "We all know he has good stuff. You saw him in the first inning and the fourth inning. In the fourth inning, he was just dominant. He hasn’t been consistent. We understand. Everybody’s frustrated."

Cahill is 0-4 with a 9.17 ERA in four starts, by far the lest effective stretch of his career. He was 6-0 with a 2.01 ERA against the Dodgers before this season, one of the reasons the D-backs picked him to start the second game of the season-opening series in Australia. Yet he has given up 11 earned runs in eight innings against them this year.

"It’s tough," Cahill said when asked about his frustration level. "Our team is struggling, and you want to be the guy. I’ve never struggled this bad. It is that much harder to start the year. I’m just trying not to think about it, I guess."

Cahill has been very good at times. He had three seasons of double-digit wins in Oakland and was 13-12 his first year in Arizona in 2012. After a hip injury sidelined for 10 weeks last year, he was on top of his game when he returned in August, going 5-0 with a 2.70 ERA in nine appearances. The D-backs adjusted his arm slot in 2013 and have asked him to work a little faster this season.

"Not thinking, just getting the ball and throwing it, kind of like Wade (Miley) does," Cahill said. "It’s just tough when things aren’t going well, because sometimes you need that breather."

Something isn’t working. Cahill walked five Sunday and has given up 25 hits and 13 walks in 17 2/3 innings this season. He does not have an answer for his good-inning, bad-inning trend. After pitching a 1-2-3 fourth, he gave up a walk and a double to start the fifth and was removed. 

"The ball just didn’t go where I wanted it to. It kind of makes it more frustrating. It would be easier if I knew exactly what it was that was different," he said.

Gibson said the Diamondbacks will have conversations, as they do every day, regarding Cahill and the starting pitching, adding that one thing is clear:

"This screenplay is one that we don’t want to play again tomorrow, so we certainly will examine how we can fix that," Gibson said.

Dodgers 8, D-backs 6

The options are several, at different levels, if the D-backs choose to go away from Cahill for a time.

— New Class AAA Reno signee Randy Wolf, who spent all of spring training with the Mariners, may need only one start, perhaps two, to build himself back to being able to throw 90-100 pitches in a major league game. His first Reno start is not yet scheduled, but it could come soon.  

— Bo Schultz is 1-1 with a 2.31 ERA in two starts at Reno, tallying 10 strikeouts in 11 2/3 innings. Schultz just became a starter last summer at Class AA Mobile, where he hit 99 mph, and while he continued his success in the Arizona Fall League, the D-backs may want to see him get more seasoning.

— Archie Bradley also has started well in Reno, going 1-1 with a 1.50 ERA. He is not on the major league roster, and scouts in spring training said he needs to work on fastball command. He seems the least likely option at this point despite his high profile as a prospect.

The Diamondbacks owe Cahill $20 million over through 2015, including a $300,000 buyout on a 2016 option. While a previous group jettisoned Russ Ortiz with about that much left on his contract in 2008, that scenario seems highly unlikely this time.

With Thursday’s off day, the D-backs could keep their other starters on regular rest and push Cahill back until April 21 if they choose.

Something, Gibson said, must change.

"We got four innings out of the guy today," he said. "That’s tough. If there is one thing that you’d want to go well, it would be innings out of your starting pitchers. Not that they are going to do it all the time, but we have had way too many short outings."

Gibson had a reason for not pinch-hitting Miguel Montero with the tying runs on base and two outs in the seventh inning of an 8-6 game. Had Montero hit for catcher Tuffy Gosewisch, the Dodgers would have replaced right-hander Jamey Wright with left-hander J.P. Howell, negating any split advantage. As it was, Gosewisch struck out. "I didn’t have many guys left," said Gibson, who is carrying only 12 position players. "You make choices."

87 — career RBIs by Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez against the D-backs, the most by any active opponent. Barry Bonds had 98.

— Gerardo Parra has been itching throw out a runner at first base for years, and he did it when took a hit away from former D-back Dan Haren in the third inning. Haren grounded an apparent single into right field, but Parra’s one-hop throw to first base beat Haren by a half-step for the out. It was the first 9-3 putout in franchise history. Parra set a club record with 17 outfield assists when he won a Gold Glove in right field in 2013. He also won a Gold Glove in left in 2011.

— Mark Trumbo leads the major leagues with six home runs and 18 RBIs after his three-run homer in the seventh inning brought the D-backs close, but they got only one more hit the rest of the way.

— Eric Chavez brought out the veteran leadership when he turned a single into a hustle double in the fifth inning. Dodgers center field Matt Kemp loped to the ball in right-center, and Chavez never hesitated as he rounded first base with the play in front of him. Chavez also hit his first homer of the season.

— Martin Prado did not start for the first time this season, and the reason was two-fold. "We want to play Chavy again," Gibson said, "and Prad’s been playing. I see a little frustration in his face, so I thought it was a good day." Chavez hit cleanup in place of Prado, who has batted fourth in 13 of the first 15 games. Prado is hitting .263 with three doubles and four RBIs.

Cody Ross had two more hits Sunday and is batting .348 in seven games on his rehab assignment at Class AAA Reno. His return to the majors could come "sometime this week," Gibson estimated Sunday morning. Ross played seven innings in the outfield Saturday and six innings Sunday and is running like himself, Gibson reported. The D-backs have said they likely will go from 13 to 12 pitchers when he is returns.

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