SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- If anyone in the Diamondbacks organization was starting to worry about Trevor Cahill's rough start to the spring, his solid outing Saturday night against the Royals had to ease their concerns a bit.
Though his night started with a rocky two-run first inning, Cahill recovered nicely with 3 23 scoreless innings and a final line of 4 23 innings, five hits, two earned runs, one walk and six strikeouts.
"I've been struggling, and as it gets closer to the season, you start to worry a little bit," Cahill said. "After the first (inning) I was worrying a little bit again, but I kind of settled down, relaxed and felt a lot more comfortable."
Cahill entered Saturday night with a 0-3 record and a 7.88 ERA, having given up at least two runs in each of his three previous outings. But if Gibson or the D-backs staff -- or anyone other than Cahill, for that matter -- has been worried at all, they haven't shown it.
Before Saturday's game at Salt River Fields, Gibson pointed to a number of factors that could be contributing to Cahill's early struggles, namely adjusting to a new organization and league after being traded this winter. There's also hitting, which Cahill didn't have to do much in two seasons with the Athletics.
Gibson also said Cahill has had trouble commanding his signature pitch.
"He hasn't been able to consistently throw his sinker like he wants to," Gibson said. "He's kind of searching for the release point on that."
After his start Saturday night, Cahill said: "I wasn't feeling really comfortable throwing it either side of the plate. I felt like (tonight) I figured it out a little bit. I think I was just overthrowing it."
So there's one issue that may have some resolution. The greater issue so far, at least in Cahill's opinion, has been getting comfortable early in games. In his spring debut, Cahill allowed three first-inning runs before throwing a clean second inning. Saturday's start went about the same way.
Just three pitches into the game, Cahill surrendered a long home run to Royals left fielder Alex Gordon. Two batters later, Cahill walked Eric Hosmer on four pitches. Lorenzo Cain and Jeff Francoeur followed with singles to push Hosmer across before Cahill got out of the inning.
"I think I was rushing a little bit, maybe a little too amped up in the first," Cahill said.
After that, Cahill cruised, throwing perfect second and third innings, allowing a double while striking out the side in the fourth and exiting in the fifth after allowing a single. The challenge now, with two starts remaining before the games start counting, is figuring out how to find that comfort zone early on.
Gibson said before the game that finding a groove should get easier for Cahill as his starts get stretched out as opposed to the whirlwind of two- or three-inning outings. The nerves that come with pitching for a new organization might still be playing a factor, too. Get all the firsts out of the way and he ought to settle down earlier in games.
"I don't know if he'd admit this, but night game and everything, I think he wants to come out and impress," Gibson said. "He's got high aspirations for himself and what he's capable of doing for our team. It was a good night for him."
Once Cahill did get comfortable, he was able to throw all four of his pitches for strikes, something he said hadn't happened yet this spring. That provided a nice confidence boost, giving Cahill evidence of the one thing he said he wanted to see to be ready for the regular season.
"If I can do that, even if they're still hitting it, I'll feel confident going into the season," Cahill said.
KUBEL CLOSE TO RETURNING
Sidelined since Wednesday with a sore right quadriceps muscle, left fielder Jason Kubel could return to the starting lineup Sunday against the Padres.
"I think we're getting close," Kubel said before Saturday's game. "I think I'll be good to get back in the lineup tomorrow."
Gibson was a little more definite, saying Kubel would return Sunday as long as everything felt OK coming out of Saturday's afternoon workout. With less than two weeks until Opening Day, the D-backs are taking a cautious approach to a relatively minor injury, which first started bothering Kubel while running the bases last Sunday in cold, rainy conditions.
"We're kind of just taking it easy right now," Kubel said. "It's obviously better to do it now than a couple weeks from now."
Signed in the offseason to a two-year deal, Kubel started the spring slowly but had picked it up a bit before taking a break due to the quad. He's hitting .242 with five RBIs and two home runs in 14 games.
SKAGGS ROUGHED UP
After D-backs prospect Tyler Skaggs threw three shaky innings of relief Saturday, Gibson offered a comparison fitting of the 2011 Minor League Pitcher of the Year, an award Skaggs accepted before the game.
"He reminds me of 'Huddy' (Daniel Hudson) a little bit when he's on the mound," Gibson said. "He gets irritated with himself. He's very young. He probably learned some good lessons out there tonight."
When the manager is comparing you to the No. 2 starter in the rotation -- a player who won 16 games last season -- it's a safe bet your future with the organization projects pretty well. Still, Skaggs didn't have the kind of night he would have liked, giving up four runs on seven hits and a walk while striking out four.
"I just didn't have the stuff today," Skaggs said. "I felt like I made some good pitches and they just hit it. There's nothing I can do about professional hitters. I still felt comfortable pitching and my pitching repertoire."
Skaggs expressed some frustration early in a postgame chat but ultimately recognized that it was a productive night. A starter, Skaggs admitted he's not as comfortable coming out of the bullpen -- a point Gibson made after the game, too -- but wouldn't let it be an excuse.
Skaggs survived the latest round of cuts Friday, which saw top pitching prospects Trevor Bauer and Charles Brewer sent to the minors. Gibson said Skaggs would start the season in the minors barring any injury to a starter, but he'll probably be one of the first options the team considers should they need to fill a rotation spot.
The D-backs travel to Peoria for a 1:05 p.m. game with the Padres, and right-hander Josh Collmenter will get his fourth start of the spring while looking to get stretched out a bit after missing one start due to right forearm tightness.
Collmenter hasn't experienced any issues with the forearm recently but has struggled in his last two outings. In a combined five innings between the two starts, Collmenter allowed eight runs on nine hits, including three home runs. For the spring, he is 0-2 with a 14.14 ERA.
Wade Miley and Takashi Saito are also slated to pitch Sunday for the D-backs, while David Hernandez will throw in a Triple-A game. The Padres will start right-hander Dustin Moseley (1-1, 3.00 ERA).
The D-backs overcame Kansas City's early 2-0 lead, sending the game into the seventh inning tied 3-3 with RBIs from Paul Goldschmidt, Ryan Roberts and Gerrardo Parra. The Royals answered quickly, as seventh-inning doubles from Hosmer and Francoeur plated runs and Mike Moustakas singled to make it a 6-3 game. Bobby Borchering and A.J. Pollock each drove in eighth-inning runs, but the Royals held on for a 6-5 win, dropping the D-backs to 8-13-2 in Cactus League play. ... Along with Skaggs, the D-backs honored first baseman Paul Goldschmidt before the game with the organization's Minor League Player of the Year award. Goldschmidt played 103 games with Double-A Mobile last season before being called up in late July. Also honored were late D-backs scout Mike Sgobba, who received the organization's Roland Hemond Award for scouting, and Mobile manager Turner Ward, who received the Joe Garagiola, Jr. Award for player development.