Jay Paris: North County’s Cahill is at home with the Padres

There’s a laundry list of areas where the Padres are seeking improvement.

They’ve been busy at spring training breaking in youngsters at positions spots, while wondering where to start with the pitching.

How about, with the starters?

The Padres most prized hurling prospects aren’t quite ready. That includes Anderson Espinoza, the gem that headed west in the Red Sox trade for Drew Pomeranz.

While the majority of the kiddie-corps Padres aren’t far removed from losing their baby teeth, it’s the guys long in the tooth that will begin games.

Trevor Cahill is among the veterans looking to resurrect their careers in pitching-friendly Petco Park.

If nothing else, Cahill knows the way to the downtown digs.

“I’m actually playing for the hometown team,’’ Cahill told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Cahill, an Oceanside native and Vista High graduate, is in the mix for a starting role. He could join a rotation that includes Jered Weaver, Clayton Richard and Jhoulys Chacin.

None of those arms belong to kids. So a motivated Cahill, 29, fits in nicely.

“There’s reasons for optimism,’’ manager Andy Green said.

The right-handed Cahill worked almost exclusively as a reliever for the world champion Chicago Cubs bullpen. He started but once, when the Cubs were caught short on a doubleheader that forced him into action. Cahill went 4-4 with a 2.74 ERA in 65 2/3 innings over 50 games.

But Cahill, a one-time starter, is itching to let someone else burst through those bullpen gates. Taking the mound soon after the national anthem is Cahill’s goal.

“He’s hungry to regain a rotation spot after pitching out of the bullpen the last few years,’’ Green said.

It wasn’t that many years ago that the 6-foot-4, 240-pound Cahill was not only a starter, but one that performed at an All-Star level. He made the 2010 Midsummer Classic with the A’s, and Green said if he stays on his Ps and Qs, he can recapture that past glory.

Cahill’s breakthrough season produced an 18-8 record and a 2.97 ERA that was among the top five among American League starters. The second-round pick of the A’s pitched to his pedigree.

“If we get him back to form, where he was in Oakland, and help him take a step forward — he was one of the better young starters the game,’’ Green said.

Now he returns to pitch for the team of his youth, the one he pulled for as a North County tyke.

“You get drafted and you’re like, ‘Oh, I wish it was the Padres,’’’ Cahill said. “And then after a while, I played at Petco many times. It’s kind of like you don’t even see them as the team you grew up with; it’s just another opponent.’’

Then he walked into the Padres’ Arizona complex. He looked around saw those players he once cheered for working as coaches. Guys like Trevor Hoffman and Mark Loretta.

“Now that I’ve put on the jersey and I’m seeing the guys I used to watch growing up in the clubhouse, I guess it hit me then,’’ Cahill said.

He didn’t get hit in his Padres debut and that’s a plus. It was just a split-squad game, but he stymied the A’s over two hitless innings, with three strikeouts and a walk.

It was a baby step for someone raising the team’s median age.

“I’ve been really impressed in how he is throwing the baseball so far,’’ Green said. “Arm looks really healthy.’’

It’s a right arm that once gobbled up innings.

“I feel like if I can still do that I can help this team out in that regard,’’ he said. “But I haven’t done it in a couple of years, so it’ll be interesting to see how I hold up over throwing 100 pitches.’’

The Padres’ pitch was to return home. Cahill’s accepted and he’s bent on securing a starting assignment.

Contact Jay Paris at jparis8@aol.com. His book “Game of My Life Chargers” is available at bookstores and at amazon.com.

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