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Cahill looks rusty in first start since spring

ATLANTA -- The Braves are not going to simply give up on Trevor Cahill after just one start. But as the next few weeks elapse, they can only hope that Cahill starts to show some signs that he is indeed capable of regaining his status as a reliable Major League pitcher.

As Cahill surrendered four earned runs and completed just 2 1/3 innings while making his season debut during Tuesday night's 8-2 loss to the Marlins, he looked much like he did last year, when he struggled to command his sinker and ultimately spent nearly a month in the D-backs' Minor League system attempting to refine his mechanics.

"When a sinkerballer is giving up fly balls, maybe there's too much rest," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "But it's just the first start of many. He'll get his side [session] in a couple days and we'll go from there."

As the Braves evaluated their rotation options near the end of Spring Training, they opted to take a gamble on Cahill by acquiring him from the D-backs, who were willing to eat $6.5 million of the 27-year-old right-hander's $12 million salary.

Over the course of the two weeks that separated the March 31 trade and Tuesday night's start, Cahill faced live hitters twice -- during a Minor League Spring Training game on April 5 and during a two-inning simulated game staged at Turner Field on Saturday.

Gonzalez felt the limited activity during this span might have affected Cahill, who retired just one of the first five batters he faced during a three-run first inning, which was highlighted by Michael Morse's double off the center-field wall.

Cahill found the strike zone with just six of the 12 sinkers he threw during the first inning. One of the strikes he recorded with the sinker within this span resulted in Giancarlo Stanton's first-pitch RBI single, and another resulted in Martin Prado's first-pitch sacrifice fly.

"I felt comfortable out there," Cahill said. "I just wasn't able to execute. It was unfortunate that I was only able to get to the third. I think our relievers did a great job of picking me up."

While rust might have been a factor, Cahill will not be given much leniency coming off a season in which he produced a 6.31 ERA over 17 starts. The former All-Star hurler has allowed at least four earned runs in eight of his past 18 starts.

Having already made a $5.5 million commitment to Cahill, the Braves will remain patient with the hope that pitching coach Roger McDowell can work his magic like he did with Aaron Harang last year.

But after Cahill issued two walks and hit a batter within a span of four plate appearances during Tuesday's third inning, Gonzalez had seen enough of McDowell's latest reclamation project.

"I felt good," Cahill said. "I felt I was making some good pitches and then I would miss my spot and they would get a hit. I just couldn't get away with any mistakes."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for
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