Four of a Kind

Trevor Cahill pitches against the Dodgers in 2013.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Trevor Cahill starts off strong in his first outing of the spring, and if he and Brandon McCarthy can bounce back from sub-par 2013 seasons, they will have some help in the Diamondbacks rotation.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Before Saturday's rain-soaked half of the Arizona Diamondbacks' doubleheader, manager Kirk Gibson said he hoped that his big horse -- Trevor Cahill -- would be able to give him four innings and 60 pitches. Fair enough. But, considering Cahill was the last of the Diamondbacks' regulars to take the hill this spring, the 6-foot-4, 220-pounder fared rather well, going 3.1 innings, throwing 54 pitches and allowing just one run on one hit and one walk, with four strikeouts, as Arizona bested Milwaukee 2-1 in a game called due to rain in the bottom half of the fifth.

"Being one of the last guys to throw, I was definitely excited," said Cahill. "You can't really prepare, throwing live BP, when there's no fielders. You throw 15 and get out of there, it's not the same as trying to get three outs. It was definitely nice to get that first one out of the way."

Cahill is once again a big part of the Diamondbacks' plans this season, after throwing a career-low 146.2 innings last season, going 8-10 with a 3.99 ERA.

"He's certainly capable of 200 innings, 32-plus starts," Gibson said. "I think [being] a 15-game winner is reasonable for him. He really has good enough stuff to win 20. But, there are different factors that factor into that."

Last season, Cahill and fellow former Oakland Athletic Brandon McCarthy -- who figured to be the top two arms on the staff -- were a combined nine games under .500 (12-21). How much did Arizona lose the NL West by? 11 games. Such was the margin for error.

Luckily for Gibson, he had two young lefties who did their part to shoulder the load in Patrick Corbin and Wade Miley.

"They both had good years, and Corbin came in fighting for a spot and came out throwing well and never let up," Cahill said. "Our goal this year is to get five guys to 200 innings, and if we get that, we'll be alright."

After the seasons they had, Corbin and Miley will go a long way toward servicing that ambition.

Miley – in his third season – went 10-10 with a 3.55 ERA in 202.2 innings pitched, striking out 147 to just 66 walks.

Corbin was even better. In just his second full season in the Major Leagues, the 24-year old went 14-8 with a 3.41 ERA in a team-high 208.1 innings of work, almost doubling his workload from 2012. He fanned 178 hitters and walked just 54, though he did give up 19 home runs.

"I feel that's our job as a starting pitcher, to eat up as many innings as you can, and you have to stay healthy, and that's a big part," Corbin said. "We went out there every start with the mentality to give it our best, and I don't think that was something that was planned to start the season, where the both of us would be eating innings, but every year is different."

Now that he has a full year as a starter under his belt, Corbin is hoping for more of a role on the preparation side of things, rather than just trusting his catcher (though, he says, he never likes to shake catchers off).

"I think the catchers that we have here, with [Miguel] Montero and Will Nieves last year, Henry Blanco's caught me, and so has Tuffy [Gosewisch], so I think they understand the hitters, and we go over a scouting report every game," Corbin said. "I think, this year, the catchers and pitchers have been game planning coming into games, and that's something that will help not only me, but the whole staff.

"I think a lot of the guys, I've faced now, so I can kind of know what works for me and what doesn't. There'll be some video on that, and we'll have I think a stronger game plan. We're just trying to be as prepared as we can be for each start."

Corbin and Miley had to step up last season. With Cahill scuffling, McCarthy made 22 starts with a 4.53 ERA – his worst since 2009. While on the disabled list rehabbing shoulder tightness, McCarthy suffered a seizure while having dinner with his wife in June, an after-effect of a line drive he took off the head in September of 2012. McCarthy missed all of June and July, and lost his first four games back.

"Yeah, I needed the offseason to come when it came," McCarthy said. "Last year was just kind of a fight, physically, mentally and emotionally. It just wasn't there from the get-go, and you just kind of felt like you were climbing uphill all year long. I'm glad I was able to rest when I could, and at that point, just reset and come in this year, where I feel back to myself. I feel like the person I'd like to be, and that kind of puts a better outlook on the season."

In his first start of the spring, McCarthy went 4.0 innings, allowing one run on four hits with one walk and two strikeouts, an encouraging sign for both him and the staff, but even with the emergence of Corbin and Miley last season, McCarthy feels that there is no let-up in the pressure department. He was brought in to be a front-end starter, and that's what he's determined to be.

"The pressure is on me to perform, no matter who else is there," McCarthy said. "You want to perform well because you want to pitch well and help the team. It's not a ‘because you're in what role.' The fact that they're throwing well is encouraging, because we expect me and Trevor to bounce back this year, which sets us up even better, now that we have two guys who are more established throwing well. If we come in and do our jobs, that should be something that helps make up the gap from last year."

For a team that was, at times, very close to being a contender last season, the pressure is always on to keep up – and surpass – Gibson's former team up north – the Los Angeles Dodgers. But, if there's anything Gibson knows, it's how to deal with pressure.

"There's pressure on everybody," he said. "We enjoy it."

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