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Trevor Cahill opted for comfort with Cubs over a guaranteed chance to start

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Trevor Cahill opted for comfort with Cubs over a guaranteed chance to start

MESA, Ariz. - Regardless of the length of the proposed deal, Trevor Cahill was offered a guaranteed chance to be a starting pitcher and turned it down to return to the Cubs.

After Cahill signed a one-year, $4.25 million deal with the Cubs, reports surfaced that he turned down a two-year offer from the Pittsburgh Pirates to be a full-time starter.

After making his Cactus League debut and tossing two shutout innings, Cahill said he was never aware of a two-year offer, but did confirm he passed on role as a starter for another team.

"I just felt more comfortable here," he said. "I think last year I pitched well because I just had fun and was comfortable. I felt like this would give me the best chance to succeed."

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Cahill also said his wife's pregnancy was a factor, as she had the baby in mid-February and he wanted to ensure he was close to their home in Arizona (Pirates camp is in the Grapefruit League in Florida).

As far as starting goes, Cahill is fine with having at least an opportunity to get back to his roots as a guy who made 128 starts over his first four years in the big leagues.

Cahill didn't sign with the Cubs until Aug. 18 last year, but wound up finding success in a big way as a reliever.

In 11 games down the stretch, he was 1-0 with a 2.12 ERA, 0.77 WHIP and 22 strikeouts in 17.2 innings. He also went 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA, 1.31 WHIP and 13.5 K/9 in six postseason games.

Cahill still envisions himself a starter, just like his peers down in the bullpen who are also looking like projected swingmen - Travis Wood, Adam Warren and Clayton Richard.

Those guys understand it's easier to get stretched out in the spring and then move to the bullpen than it is the other way around.

But if healthy, Jason Hammel and Kyle Hendricks are likely going to fill out the rest of the Cubs' rotation after Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester and John Lackey.

"We've got five quality arms already kinda slotted in," Cahill said. "But we're ready for anything. It's easier to transition from starting to relieving, so I think we're all gonna try to have the mindset that they might need us to start the year or here or there or whatever.

"We're just gonna try and go out there and pitch the best we can. That's all you can really do. All the other stuff is just not important."

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For Cahill, it all comes back to the comfort level.

He likes playing with guys he knows, including Jake Arrieta and Dexter Fowler (whom he played with in the Olympics) and former Arizona Diamondbacks teammate Miguel Montero.

Cahill also likes the culture Joe Maddon and the Cubs have created.

"It's a fun atmosphere," Cahill said. "I think everybody wants to be a part of something special. It's different. It's fun coming to the ballpark.

"I'm not saying other teams are boring. I just think guys play here and they have a good time.

"The comfort level, too, as far as how you're gonna perform on the field and how comfortable you are off the field - I think that matters just as much."

David Bote's neverending game of chess

David Bote's neverending game of chess

David Bote feels like he's in a neverending game of chess.

He's been so ingrained in the Cubs conversation the last two years that it's easy to forget this is his first full big-league season and he's still learning the ropes.

Bote is now nationally known thanks to the ultimate grand slam he hit last August, but he's not hanging his hat on that one accomplishment and has found a way to conjure up some staying power in the majors. He's a former 18th-round draft pick who never found his name on top prospect lists, yet signed a five-year, $15 million extension before even playing his first home game in 2019.

But Bote won't rest on his laurels with that contract extension, either. He knows he's in store for a constant battle.

"It's never ending," Bote said. "[The league] points out something that you do and you make an adjustment off it and then they make another adjustment off of you. It's just trying to stay with what you want to do and also try to stay in front of what they're trying to do at the same time."

Much like he did last year, Bote got out to a hot start this season but then eventually hit a rough pitch. 

After he had a tough series in Cincinnati in mid-May (he went 0-for-8 with 6 strikeouts), he found himself on the bench for back-to-back games while his season average dipped to .239 and OPS fell to .713.

But then he got the start at third base in Washington on May 18, hit a homer and hasn't looked back since.

From that game on, Bote has a 1.027 OPS while slashing .324/.378/.649 with 6 homers and 18 RBI in 19 starts.

The 26-year-old infielder has earned more playing time with his production, taking advantage of the respective offensive slumps from Addison Russell and Daniel Descalso. As the Cubs faced a tough righty in Lucas Giolito Wednesday night, it was Bote who found his name at second base and he responded with a homer off the American league ERA leader.

"He started out well, then he hit a little bit of a skid, which was good because he had some problems at the major-league level early in the season and he's overcome that already," Joe Maddon said earlier this month. "So you need to go through that adversity, too. My goodness, David's got a great head on his shoulders. He's a team-oriented player. 

"He's like any other young player — he's still working to really understand what's going on every day and understanding himself. But he does it in a very mature way. He's gonna keep getting better because he listens well, and I think he's getting to the point where he understands his strengths, which is really important. Just watch him — he's gonna continue to get better."

Bote doesn't feel like the neverending game of chess gets any easier, but at least now, he has a checklist he can go through to evaluate his mechanics or mental approach or whatever else may be slightly off. 

At the end of the day, it's all about confidence for Bote — as it is for every player in the big leagues.

"Whether you feel good or feel bad that day, it's trying to be as confident as you can and just letting your ability and your work before that take over," Bote said. "I'm not in the box thinking about my mechanics, but trying to trust that my BP and cage work and all that that takes over and you just go to battle.

"And if [you're still not feeling great], then you say, 'Screw it, I'll just go out there and battle today and get 'em tomorrow.' It's all fluid. It's all ever-changing."

Cubs Talk Podcast: Cubs split Crosstown and Adbert Alzolay is called up

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Cubs split Crosstown and Adbert Alzolay is called up

Kelly Crull and Tony Andracki check in from Wrigley Field after the Cubs split the first leg of the Crosstown Classic with the White Sox.

Kelly and Tony discuss the breaking news of top pitching prospect Adbert Alzolay's promotion to the big leagues and what his role could be with the Cubs (2:15), and assess where the Cubs stand as they continue their long homestand, including the recent offensive downturn and Yu Darvish taking a step forward (7:30).

Cubs Talk Podcast

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