Closer eyes next level

Trevor Hoffman, Padres closer and all-time save leader, enters the ninth inning to “Hell’s Bells” by ACDC. Yankee great Mariano Rivera walks to the mound to “Enter Sandman” by Metallica. What song does junior closer Andrew Cashner intimidate opposing batters with? “Guitar Town” by Steve Earle – a song that describes his personality more than his sizzling upper ’90s fastball or knee-buckling slider.

Cashner had a simple answer for his peculiar song choice as he spoke between spits into a cup from a front lip full of chewing tobacco.

“I like country songs,” Cashner said. “I’m a big Texas Country guy and I really like Steve Earle.”

The Making of a Closer

Cashner was a candidate for the starting rotation this year, but was moved to the closer role during spring drills – a move he has excelled in, head coach Jim Schlossnagle said.

“Sometimes, guys see going to the bullpen as a demotion, (but) I think he’s done a good job of accepting that role and flourishing in it,” he said. “He’s bought into it now.”

Cashner said his best asset as a pitcher is not his fastball, but his breaking ball that he started throwing last May.

“I (had) never really been able to throw a breaking ball,” Cashner said. “I think I’ve really picked up on my slider and I’ve been able to throw my slider really well this year.”

Schlossnagle said though Cashner is a great athlete with “plus stuff,” Cashner’s mental approach is most impressive.

“Mentally, he’s grown to be really strong where he can handle his emotions,” Schlossnage said. “He expects positive things to happen and he doesn’t dwell on the negative, and that’s (important) because he’s always pitching in pressure situations.”

Fast Track

Cashner has been drafted every year since high school – a 20th round pick by the Braves in 2005, an 18th rounder by the Rockies in 2006 and a 29th round pick by the Cubs last year.

Schlossnagle said he and Cashner will talk about options at the end of the season.

“It’s up to him whether he signs or not, but if he keeps doing what he’s doing he’ll be a high draft pick,” Schlossnagle said. “If he doesn’t fall where he wants to fall, we’ll welcome him back.”

Cashner says he is focusing on not worrying about the draft and has enrolled in classes for next fall.

“As of right now I’m coming back to TCU, but we’ll see what happens this summer,” he said. “I’m looking to go first or second round, but if it doesn’t work out then I’ll be back here.”

Cashner said he might go pro if drafted in later rounds depending on the amount of money he is offered.

Thank God I’m a Country Boy

When he isn’t pitching, Cashner is hunting or fishing either around the area here or in his hometown of Montgomery, Texas.

“He’s a country boy,” sophomore catcher Bryan Holaday said.

Cashner said he did a lot of hunting over Christmas break at home.

“I went hunting every day but three days,” he said. “If there’s a chance of going hunting, I’m going hunting.”

Though he’s a polite kid off the field, Cashner has not been kind to opposing hitters this season. The junior closer has tallied seven wins, six saves and finished 23 games on the mound, all tops in the Mountain West Conference. The flamethrower has also recorded 61 strikeouts, third in the conference overall and best among non-starters, though he says he hasn’t thought about the statistics he has posted this season.

“I’ve been put in games in close situations, and I like getting the ball when the game’s on the line because I can pretty much control what I can do as far as throwing off the mound,” Cashner said.

As Steve Earle sings, “Now I’m smokin’ into Texas with the hammer down,” that’s exactly what Cashner has in mind – for now.