CHICAGO - Andrew Cashner won a spot in the Chicago Cubs' rotation last spring and made his only start on April 5 before a strained rotator cuff sent him to the disabled list.
He didn't return to the majors until September, as a reliever, and now the former first-round pick is headed to a new team, the San Diego Padres, as part of a four-player trade announced Friday.
Cashner, a 6-foot-6 right-hander, and minor league outfielder Kyung-Min Na were sent to the Padres for first baseman Anthony Rizzo and minor league right-hander Zach Cates.
The swap creates another reunion for Rizzo and Cubs GM Jed Hoyer.
Rizzo, who overcame Hodgkins Lymphoma, was drafted in 2007 by the Boston Red Sox when Hoyer and Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein helped run that front office.
As GM of the Padres, Hoyer acquired Rizzo as part of the trade that sent Adrian Gonzalez to the Red Sox. And now both are in Chicago with the Cubs.
"We believe Anthony has the potential to be a middle-of-the order run producer for the Cubs for a long time," Hoyer said. "He still has some development left, but we feel like what he's done at age 20 at Double-A and 21 at Triple-A was remarkable. He did struggle in the big leagues a little bit last year when he came up we feel that is just an adjustment period and he has a very bright future."
That having been said, Hoyer — who joined the Cubs late last year — said Rizzo will likely start the season in Triple-A with Brian LaHair being the starting Cubs' first baseman. LaHair hit 38 homers and batted .331 at Triple-A Iowa last year.
Cashner, the Cubs' first-round pick in 2008 out of TCU, will probably head to the Padres' bullpen. The 25-year-old is 2-6 with a 4.29 ERA in 60 major league outings — just the one start — over the last two years with the Cubs.
"We're not going to anoint him a role. We're going to use him as a reliever and see where that takes us," said Padres GM Josh Byrnes, who's had a busy off-season since replacing Hoyer.
"He has ability to potentially one day be a starter. He has the potential to pitch at the back end of a game so we'll see where that goes."
Byrnes said the Padres were confident that Cashner's arm is sound.
"We did a lot of work. I think four different scouts saw him pitcher after he returned (in fall league). We're pretty confident. There's always risk. He's 25 and he throws 100 mph on his good days," Byrnes said.
"We think this injury is non-predictive and hopefully he can be a healthy and productive pitcher for us."
Rizzo batted .331 with 26 home runs and 101 RBI in 93 games for San Diego's Tucson affiliate last season, his first-career stop at Triple-A. He also had two stints with the Padres and batted .141 with a homer and nine RBI in 49 big league games last year.
He was available because the Byrnes had made an earlier trade with the Reds, sending right-hander Mat Latos to Cincinnati Reds for four players, including starter Edinson Volquez and Yonder Alonso, the leading contender to start at first base.
"If we had a good deal it probably made sense to do it rather than spend a lot of time having sort of a quarterback controversy between Alonso and Rizzo," Byrnes said.
"Alonso is a little more accomplished. He spent more time at Triple-A and had big league success and we feel like he might fit our ballpark a little better."
Rizzo was originally selected by the Red Sox in the sixth round in 2007 out of high school. He was limited to 21 minor league games in 2008 after being diagnosed with Limited Stage Classical Hodgkins Lymphoma in late April. He excelled in the minors over the ensuing two seasons and was acquired by the Padres as part of the five-player deal that sent Gonzalez to the Red Sox on December 6, 2010.
Cashner is the second member of the Cubs' initial 2011 rotation to be traded this week. Earlier, the Cubs shipped off temperamental right-hander Carlos Zambrano to the Marlins for Chris Volstad.
"I would say we're not finished acquiring starting pitchers. We want to have as much depth as possible," Hoyer said, adding that the early-season injuries to Cashner and Randy Wells last season sent the Cubs on a shaky path at the outset.
Cates made his professional debut last season, going 4-10 with a 4.73 ERA in 25 starts for Single-A Fort Wayne.
The 20-year-old Na combined to bat .268 in 83 games between four different teams in the club's minor league system last year.
AP freelance writer Dan Hayes contributed to this report.