Before Bob Geren knew Trevor Cahill, he knew about him. One number in particular jumped out at the A's manager: 4.36.
It wasn't Cahill's ERA. It was his GPA.
"Incredibly intelligent," Geren said. "Hardly shaves."
Yes, Cahill is smart, fuzzy-cheeked and talented — everything you'd want in a pitching phenom. But here's the thing about that — the moment he left Thursday night's Bay Bridge Series exhibition game against the Giants, he left his phenom days behind.
His last game as an innocent got off to a rocky start. Cahill allowed three runs in a 30-pitch first inning, then settled into a rhythm. In his final four innings, he allowed one run on three hits.
"After that first inning, getting used to a big league stadium, it was OK," he said.
The stakes only get bigger from here. The next time he takes the mound, against the Los Angeles-ish Angels on Tuesday night, he'll be seeking results at the highest level of a bottom-line enterprise. He may still be a work in progress as a pitcher, but he'll be subject to expectations that have been in effect since the days of Cy Young.
The real Cy Young.
That's a lot of weight to drape around the shoulders of a young man who's been 21 for barely more than one month. But Geren insists Cahill has the make-up of a star, if not the actual resume.
"He has a very hard sinker," Geren said. "It's kind of his signature pitch. He has velocity with a lot of movement, similar to a Brandon Webb. But without the experience of a Brandon Webb.
"I've known the scout who scouted (Cahill) in high school almost my whole life. Before I even met (Cahill), I knew all about him. One of the things (the scout) said was, he's extremely intelligent. He's beyond his years in terms of maturity. He doesn't get too high or too low. That works for a sinkerball pitcher. What you don't want to do when you get in trouble is throw harder."
There was a little of that against the Giants. Cahill walked four and struck out one; coming into Thursday's game he had struck out 12 and walked six in 20 exhibition innings.
"I think today that was the case," he said, when it was suggested he might have overthrown early on. "Once I got settled in, I started letting my pitches start working."
Common sense says there are a lot of first times, settling in and new experiences in Cahill's immediate future. After Thursday's game he was alternately clinical in describing his performance, yet seemingly dazed when contemplating his situation.
By his own admission, he was no big thing athletically until his senior year in high school. He chose the A's over Dartmouth after being picked in the second round of the 2006 draft. Forty-five minor league games later, he's penciled in to start the second game of the 2009 major league season.
"It's unbelievable," he said. "It still hasn't hit me. I called my parents, and called all my friends. I'm still kind of shaking that this is happening."
He's not alone. The A's entire starting rotation looks like it was culled from a frat party. All five members of their season-opening starting rotation are under 26. According to the A's, the last major league team to claim that distinction was the 1978 Milwaukee Brewers. The team before that? The 1968 A's.
And it isn't lost on Cahill that his opponent in Thursday's game, reigning National League Cy Young Award-winner Tim Lincecum, was a wide-eyed newbie not that long ago.
"I hope to follow in his footsteps," Cahill said. "He's comfortable out there. I hope I get that way before too long."
Only four more shopping days until "before too long" begins.
Contact Gary Peterson at firstname.lastname@example.org.