Top pitching prospect Andrew Cashner was surreptitiously moved from the rotation into the bullpen for AAA Iowa today, in anticipation of a possible promotion to coincide with Carlos Zambrano's move back to the Cubs' rotation.
With left-hander Tom Gorzelanny expected to be the starter the Cubs move to the bullpen to make room for Zambrano, the Cubs' pen becomes too left-handed, raising the likelihood one the lefties could be moved out (James Russell possibly being optioned to AAA) to make room for a right-hander.
The Cubs have two high-end, hard-throwing right-handers who could be ready: Cashner and Jay Jackson, who was in the Iowa bullpen until swapping AAA roles with Cashner today.
``You hate to get ahead of yourself,'' Cubs farm director Oneri Fleita said when asked whether Cashner or Jackson could be promoted as part of the Zambrano move. ``Tonight's kind of a look-see. The next couple of nights, let's just see where it takes us.''
General manager Jim Hendry said earlier in the week that Cashner was getting close to being ready for a big-league debut.
And several team officials wouldn't rule out the likelihood of it coming in a relief role -- the clearest need on the pitching staff.
Cashner, a closer for Texas Christian before the Cubs drafted him 19th overall in 2008, was 3-0 with a 0.95 ERA in three starts at Iowa since a recent promotion from AA Tennessee (3-1, 2.75).
He has been commanding an upper-90s fastball consistently.