Cubs

Knock on wood: Trevor Cahill has resurrected his career with Cubs

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Knock on wood: Trevor Cahill has resurrected his career with Cubs

When Joe Maddon needed to call on a reliever to pitch the eighth inning of a tense, must-win postseason game in St. Louis, how many people expected Trevor Cahill to be the guy?

Maddon's bullpen is constantly changing, but even still, it was a bit shocking to see Cahill - a guy who wasn't even with the big-league Cubs until Aug. 31 - called upon in such a crucial moment of Game 2 against the Cardinals, a game the Cubs absolutely had to have after dropping the NLDS opener the night before.

But to anybody following the Cubs closely over the last six weeks, it shouldn't have come as a surprise.

[RELATED - Kyle Schwarber has become larger than life during Cubs postseason run]

Since joining the Cubs, Cahill has been good. Like, really good.

He carved out a role as a high-leverage arm out of the bullpen with 11 dominant appearances to close out the regular season after he got called up just before the Sept. 1 roster expansion.

Including the playoffs, Cahill has a 2.34 ERA and 0.86 WHIP while striking out 28 batters in 19.2 innings.

Miguel Montero spent three years catching Cahill with the Arizona Diamondbacks from 2012-14 and he said this is the best he's ever seen the big right-hander.

"Bottom line right here, he's throwing a lot of strikes," Montero said before Cahill picked up a win in the NLDS-clinching Game 4 Tuesday. "In Arizona, he was really wild. He was spiking fastballs, he as probably getting ahead really quick on the hitters and then he just ended up walking them.

"Right now, he's been doing a great job for us, knock on wood. He was a pretty good acquisition by the organization in late August. I was really happy when we signed him. I actually remember texting somebody in the front office saying, 'Hey, that was a great sign.'

"Sure enough, he's been looking, and like I say - knock on wood again - hopefully he stays good."

[RELATED - Chemistry matters for Cubs team taking the playoffs by storm]

Cahill was 18-8 with a 2.97 ERA and earned a trip to the All-Star Game and ranked ninth in the American League Cy Young race as a 22-year-old with the Oakland A's in 2010. But his transformation into a valuable high-leverage arm has been quite striking from the pitcher he's been recently, even earlier this season.

Cahill lost his role in the Diamondbacks rotation last year and wound up with a 3-12 record, 5.61 ERA and 1.608 WHIP.

This season, he had a 7.52 ERA in 15 games with the rebuilding Atlanta Braves and was outright released by the team in late June. He signed with the Cubs as a free agent Aug. 18 and the rest is history.

"It just says a lot about [Cubs president Theo Epstein] and them for signing me," Cahill said. "I was in a place where I didn't think anybody wanted me. I was pitching batting practice in Triple-A.

"Apparently, they saw something in me. [Theo's] like, we want you to go to Triple-A and see what you can do out of the bullpen. I went there and fortunately, pitched well.

"They called me up and I didn't know what capacity they'd use me in. But I was just like, 'I'm gonna be ready all the time.' Fortunately, I've pitched well enough. I still don't know what capacity they're gonna use me in, but I'm just ready to go from the first inning to the ninth."

Cahill said he was at the point where he was seriously wondering whether he had a future in baseball at age 27 and with an All-Star nod on his resume.

But it all worked out and now he's one of Maddon's most trusted relievers, in part, because the Cubs let him be himself.

[SHOP: Buy Cubs playoff gear]

If that sounds familiar, it should, because it's the same story Jake Arrieta went through after struggling with the Baltimore Orioles and then finding Cy Young-level success with this Cubs pitching infrastructure.

"He was probably, mentally-wise, he lost it a little bit," Montero said. "He probably didn't have anybody helping him, behind him, and then he came here and as soon as he came here, I sat down with him and said, 'You know what, I heard you were changing your delivery in Arizona in Spring Training, I heard they changed your arm angle and whatnot, blah, blah, blah.

"I want you to be you. Just go out there and throw the ball. Just be you and don't worry about the rest. I mean, he's been impressive, man. He's probably been as good as I've ever seen him."

Report: Giants interested in Cubs first base coach Will Venable for manager opening

Report: Giants interested in Cubs first base coach Will Venable for manager opening

The Giants' search for a successor to now-retired manager Bruce Bochy has led them to the North Side.

According to NBC Sports Bay Area's Alex Pavlovic, the Giants are interested in Cubs first base coach Will Venable for their own managerial opening. San Francisco's interest is intriguing, as Venable went to high school just outside San Francisco in nearby San Rafael. His father — Max Venable — played for the Giants from 1979-83. 

Venable also interviewed for the Cubs' manager job earlier this month, telling the Chicago Sun-Times that his interest is in the "organization in general." He is one of several internal candidates for the Cubs' job, along with bench coach Mark Loretta and front office assistant David Ross.

The Cubs also interviewed Joe Girardi and are set to meet with Astros bench coach Joe Espada and former Phillies manager Gabe Kapler.

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Former Cub Mark Prior likely to take over as Dodgers pitching coach in 2020

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USA TODAY

Former Cub Mark Prior likely to take over as Dodgers pitching coach in 2020

Mark Prior's big-league playing career unfortunately fizzled out due to recurring injury woes, but he's making a name for himself in the coaching realm.

With Dodgers current pitching coach Rick Honeycutt transitioning into a new role, Prior is expected to takeover the position starting next season.

Cubs fans know the story of Prior's playing career all too well. The Cubs drafted him second overall in the 2001, with Prior making his MLB debut just a season later. He went on to dominate in 2003, posting an 18-6 record, 2.43 ERA and 245 strikeouts in 30 starts, a season in which he made the All-Star Game and finished third in the NL Cy Young Award voting.

However, Prior's season ended on a sour note, as he was on the mound during the Steve Bartman incident in Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS. Prior exited the game with a 3-1 lead, but the Cubs surrendered seven more runs that inning, eventually falling to the Marlins 8-3 before losing Game 7 the next day. 

Prior struggled to stay healthy after 2003, eventually retiring in 2013 after multiple comeback attempts. While many blame his injury-riddled career on former Cubs manager Dusty Baker, Prior does not. 

While we can only wonder what could've been with Prior to the pitcher, it's good to see him still making an impact in baseball in some fashion.

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