PHOENIX -- Trevor Cahill may be an All-Star pitcher, but he has yet to master the lifestyle of one.

The A's right-hander still hangs with the same group of friends he had while growing up in Oceanside.

And unless a Thanksgiving trip to South Dakota is your idea of a wild time, he didn't splurge on any extravagant vacations this past offseason, either.

Winning 18 games last year and becoming a Cy Young Award candidate did little to change Cahill's personality -- or perspective -- as he enters his third major league season.

"I don't really feel much different at all," Cahill said Tuesday as he reported to camp with Oakland's other pitchers and catchers. "I still come in feeling like you always want to try to do your best. I don't really see a difference."

But consider the position Cahill -- who doesn't turn 23 until March 1 -- finds himself in this spring compared with a year ago.

He arrived to camp in 2010 coming off an inconsistent rookie season and he was battling just to become the A's fifth starter.

Gio Gonzalez won that job. Cahill began the season on the disabled list with a left shoulder injury and upon recovering, entered Triple-A Sacramento's rotation.

He was called up to the major leagues in late April. He allowed six earned runs against Toronto in his first outing but quickly righted himself, finishing 18-8 with a 2.97 ERA and punching his ticket to the All-Star game along the way.

He learned to spot his fastball, making him more effective against left-handed hitters. A curveball that began as an experiment became a go-to weapon.

Cahill's win total in 2010 was the highest by an American League pitcher 22 years old or younger since Kansas City's Bret Saberhagen went 20-6 in 1985.

"His breaking ball obviously progressed a little bit, and his confidence, I think, was a big thing," fellow A's starter Brett Anderson said. "After Toronto, it seemed like he had 20 good starts in a row."

Scouts rave about the abilities of Anderson and Gonzalez. Dallas Braden's age (27) makes him the grizzled veteran of the rotation.

But it's Cahill whose resume would suggest he's the ace.

If you want to make the soft-spoken Cahill break out in a grin, try suggesting he's emerged as a leader of the staff.

"I don't think that's me," he said. "If anybody, I think Dallas would be that guy."

Given that Cahill will be arbitration-eligible after this season -- and thus more expensive -- it's logical the A's might consider locking him up with a contract extension that buys out his arbitration years, as they did in signing Anderson to a four-year, $12.5 million deal last season.

General manager Billy Beane declined to comment on whether he was entertaining such thoughts with Cahill.

Asked how Cahill could improve on his breakout season, Beane responded: "We don't want to get too greedy, but if he just repeated his (2010) year we'd be happy. But given his age, there's always a chance he could be better."

Cahill is ready to get back to work after his uneventful offseason.

His All-Star selection didn't exactly bring a rush of attention back in Oceanside, just north of San Diego. That's because Cahill's entourage goes back to his Little League days.

"When I go home, it's the same friends I've had since kindergarten, that I played baseball with," Cahill said. "I mean, they ask me questions. But it's not like they look up to me."

coming into his own
How Trevor Cahill has fared over his first two seasons with the A's:
2009 2010
GAMES 32 30
RECORD 10-13 18-8
INNINGS 1782/3 1962/3
HITS ALLOWED 185 155
HRS ALLOWED 27 19
WALKS 72 63
STRIKEOUTS 90 118
ERA 4.63 2.97
OPP. AVERAGE .270 .220