Toward the end of the season, however, Cashner showed his potential by posting a 1.93 ERA in 13 games in September to end the year on a positive note.
After he appears at the annual Cubs Convention later this month, Cashner will head to Mesa, Ariz., to get a jumpstart on preparing for the season ahead.
Q: How much does the signing of Kerry Wood affect you in terms of your role with the team going into next season?
A: It's going to affect me a lot. Whether I go to the rotation or the bullpen, I think he's going to be able to help me out and take my game to another level. He's been in the game for so long and has had such a great career, and just talking to him about hitters, he's another person to get advice from. I've never played with him, but they say he's a (professional) in the clubhouse and that'll be really good for us. Growing up watching him play, I've been a big fan of him and now I get to listen to him and hopefully pitch as good as he did.
Q: With the signing of Wood as a veteran arm for the bullpen, does that give the Cubs more incentive to put you in the rotation?
A: They've mentioned both. I don't know what I'm doing right now, but I'm preparing for the season. I told them that it doesn't really matter whether I start or relieve; I'm still going to prepare the same way and show up in spring training in the best shape I can be in. After the Cubs Convention, I'm going out there (to Mesa) so I'll be out in Arizona about a month early. (Ryan) Dempster called me and asked me to come out there with him, so I'm going to work out with him before the season.
Q: You had a baptism-by-fire season. Were you pleased with the overall results?
A: I thought I had a good year, but I think there's definitely room for improvement and areas where I could get better. I don't think I pitched the best that I possibly could. I think I pitched good in two different stints. I started off really good and then struggled, and then finished good. I think I'm capable of throwing more strikes and knowing that I belong there is a big thing. Instead of being a little timid out there and pitching around guys, it's about establishing yourself and going after guys.
Q: You mentioned that you struggled through a couple of months back-to-back, but by the end of the season you showed some real promising signs. What changed for you in September?
A: It started for me probably in August. I finally said [forget it] and went after it. I went out there every day and put everything on the line and just relaxed. I went after guys and didn't pay much attention to anything (else). I felt like I finished very strong. When you start struggling and get into a rut, it's kind of hard to get out. The biggest thing for me was getting out of it. Just knowing that I belonged in the big leagues was probably the biggest thing. A lot of things can go wrong and when they do, it seems like it all goes wrong at once. I felt like I bounced back. Dempster and (Sean) Marshall helped me out a lot and I don't think I'd be where I'm at today without those guys' help.
Q: How important is that to you; to have the guys like Dempster and Marshall in your corner and taking you aside as mentors?
A: It was nice. During the games, I'd always sit next to Marshall and we'd always chit-chat, but then when it got time to get serious, we'd talk about hitters and pitches and just having better knowledge for the game: pitch selection and situations and stuff you wanted to throw. It was a great learning experience for me.
Q: The team obviously went through a lot last year, going through a managerial change. Was that a bit overwhelming at times, especially being a rookie?
A: Going to the big leagues was kind of overwhelming in itself. When you're a little kid, you dream about that your whole life and I don't think it sunk in until the middle of the year. It was a kind of whirlwind year for me and during the off-season, I sit and think, "Where did the year go?" It went so fast. I'm going to try not to let this year go as fast and try to enjoy it a little bit more.
Q: What are you working on this time of year relative to getting ready for spring training?
A: Right now I'm working out four days a week in Houston and my main goal has been getting my legs strong. If I do have a chance to start, I've got to have my legs. Right now, I'm just trying to get as strong as I can and be in the best shape I can be. I've been doing a lot of legs and a lot of running and long-toss. Hopefully people will be able to see my hard work in the spring.
Q: What are you looking to improve on next season relative to pitches?
A: Really the biggest thing for me is command and I think the reason I had so much success toward the end of the year was because I learned to command my fastball away. When I was struggling, my ball was kind of starting away and going middle and guys were hitting it. But once I really learned to command my fastball away, then it opened up so much more because whenever I didn't have anything else, I could always go back to my fastball away. I think that's the biggest thing for me this whole year: to be able to command that pitch 90 percent of the time.
Q: How do you like playing for Mike Quade, and how does his style contrast with Lou Piniella's?
A: I really enjoyed playing for Quade. Whenever I was out there, and every time there was a big situation, he gave me the ball. It was a lot of fun. I had struggled and there was some talk that I didn't really deserve the ball, but he showed the confidence in me and that gave me a lot of confidence in turn. Him getting fired up got me fired up and I felt like while he was (managing) that I pitched really well.
Q: You're also going to be working with a new pitching coach in Mark Riggins, but he's also someone you've worked with before at the minor league level.
A: I've worked with Riggins in previous spring training's, but probably the thing that me and him will be working on is my changeup. My changeup and my slider are pitches that I can always (improve), and I've been throwing my curveball. My changeup is going to be a big pitch for me this spring and it's something that I need to be able to come into spring training with and (improve).