Cashner on his health, Hyde and more

The top three starters in the Orioles rotation will report to spring training without the physical ailments that interrupted or ended their 2018 seasons.

Dylan Bundy’s sprained left ankle has healed. Alex Cobb isn’t bothered by the blisters that surfaced on his right index and middle fingers. Andrew Cashner no longer has bursitis in his left knee.

A cortisone injection administered in September didn’t provide the necessary relief for Cashner and he was done after his start on Sept. 12. He lasted only two innings, charged with eight runs and eight hits in a 10-0 loss to the Athletics, and couldn’t get back on a mound.

“My knee’s been doing great,” Cashner said on Tuesday from his Texas home. “Everything’s good. I feel 100 percent healthy and really looking forward to all the changes that we’ve made.

“My knee didn’t really feel normal until maybe a month and a half into the offseason, probably the middle of November to Thanksgiving. I think for me, the time off has been good and then getting back into lifting. I’ve been doing some rehab stuff and I’m excited about what’s to come in camp.”

Cashner-Slings-Orange-Sidebar.jpgCashner, who’s going to be paid $8 million this season, lost his last five starts to finish 4-15 with a 5.29 ERA and 1.582 WHIP in 153 innings. Bundy sprained his ankle on June 23 while running the bases in Atlanta, didn’t pitch again until July 6 and posted a 7.11 ERA and 1.566 WHIP in the second half. Cobb had a miserable first half after signing late, was forced out of multiple games due to the blisters and made only three starts in September.

It’s got to get better, right?

“I think they’re going to rely a lot on us three,” Cashner said. “There’s a chance for Josh Rogers or Jimmy Yacabonis, Yefry Ramírez and David Hess ... I think there’s going to be a lot of competition and it’s going to be exciting to see who shows up to take those spots.”

Cashner is positioned again to serve as a leader and mentor, a role he seemed to embrace from the minute that he stepped inside the clubhouse at the Ed Smith Stadium complex in Sarasota.

“I let them come to me with questions,” he said. “I don’t try to be the guy that has all the answers or this is the way. I just try to remember what it was like for me when I was in that situation. I leaned on a lot of older guys when I was in that spot and I try to be that guy for them.”

New manager Brandon Hyde isn’t familiar with many players on the Orioles roster and has been reaching out to them over the winter. No introduction is necessary with Cashner, 32, because they were together in the Arizona Fall League in 2009, with Hyde serving as the manager.

“I remember having a lot of great conversations with him in the dugout, just talking about the game and the flow of it,” Cashner said. “I do know that he’s a big-time players’ manager. I actually played against him in the minor leagues in the championship a couple different times when he was with the Marlins. I think it’s been great that he’s coming from (Cubs manager) Joe Maddon and I’m excited that he’s going to be our new manager.”

Cashner said he sensed that Hyde was managerial material many years before the Orioles hired him in December to replace Buck Showalter.

“I believed it,” he said. “I think it’s all about getting your chance. Everything was there as far as the game smarts, as far as being able to communicate with players, to run a pitching staff, just communication in general with everyone.”

Showalter and executive vice president Dan Duquette are gone and an entirely new coaching staff is joining the organization, with confirmations possibly coming later this week. Players will be fed analytics from a much larger spoon.

“As a player, as a fan, from the outside I think a lot of people saw it coming,” Cashner said. “I wasn’t there for the previous years with Buck and those guys, but Buck was good to me, so I don’t really have anything on that. But as far as the Orioles being behind in a lot of departments, I do believe that’s true and I think that is all about the changes. There already have been a lot of them.

“I think the analytics and the video, that’s kind of the biggest key. And scouting and all that kind of stuff.”

News of Doug Brocail’s hiring as pitching coach didn’t break until later in the day, a few hours after I spoke to Cashner. Brocail was Cashner’s pitching coach in Texas in 2017 before the right-hander, who had gone 11-11 with a 3.40 ERA and 1.320 WHIP in 28 starts, signed his two-year, $16 million deal with the Orioles last spring.

That’s a topic for another interview.

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