Notes from Game 15
Lefty Brett Cecil, trying to stay in the rotation race, started in a Minor League game at the same time. After returning from his start, Cecil seemed genuinely thrilled with how things went.
“My slider was excellent today,” said Cecil, discussing his four-inning outing. “The curveball was really good. Everything was down and, if I missed, it was down in the dirt, down in the zone. That’s the thing. No walks. That’s the big thing for me.”
Cecil continued to work on his changeup, tested out a retooled grip on his two-seam sinker and — at the last minute — decided to start trying out a cutter. Cecil said he went over grips for a cut fastball with Jays lefty Brian Tallet on Friday and tried it out in the bullpen before his outing on Saturday.
Heading to the mound for his outing, catcher Kyle Phillips asked if Cecil wanted to use it during the game.
“H said, ‘What do you want for the cutter?'” Cecil said. “I said, ‘Ah, just forget about it. I’m just working on it right now.’ He goes, ‘Well, what if you just want to throw it?’ I said, ‘Just throw down a five.'”
During his start, Phillips threw down five fingers, calling for the cutter as planned. Cecil — never having used a cutter in an outing before — completely forgot about the pregame discussion about actually using the pitch.
“He threw down a five and I was like, ‘What?'” said Cecil, laughing. “So I stepped off and I was like, ‘Oh. Cutter.’ So I told him to go again. I threw it. It was a ball, but it had good movement on it.”
In all, Cecil said he allowed two runs (one earned) with no walks in his four innings of work. The young lefty said Philadelphia’s Jayson Werth took part in the Triple-A game and tagged him for a couple hits. Cecil could live with that, especially since he was working on a few different things.
Cecil has been very open about trying different approaches this spring. First, due to a cut on his left thumb, he was forced to work with only fastballs and changeups. In the process, Cecil began to trust his changeup more, realizing he could get by with a limited arsenal of pitches. Now, he’s altered his sinker and is trying out the new cutter.
“If I was a coach, I’d really like it if kids were willing to try new things,” Cecil said. “That’s one thing I love to do. I love trying new pitches. … If a coach or even a player comes up and says, ‘Hey, try this grip,’ and it works for me, then OK, I’ll go try it.”
Will that willingness to try new things ultimately help Cecil earn a spot in the rotation? Time will tell. The top five candidates for spots include Shaun Marcum, Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, Rzepczynski and Tallet. Dana Eveland and Cecil appear to be the next two on the depth chart right now.
Morrow is currently dealing with a minor shoulder issue, possibly throwing a wrinkle into the situation. If the Blue Jays decided to be very conservative with Morrow, even though he believes he can still be ready for his next start and certainly Opening Day, and places him on the DL to begin the year, Cecil or Eveland could wind up on the staff.
“He’s still got a chance,” manager Cito Gaston said of Cecil. “Nothing’s set yet, so he still has a chance.”
RZEPSINKERSKI: For Rzepczynski, the biggest thing to come out of Saturday’s five-inning outing against the Braves was that he is finally beginning to really trust his sinker. The lefty believes establishing that pitch will go a long way in helping him become more efficient this season for the Jays.
“I can’t believe I’m actually admitting this,” Rzepczynski said, “but never in a pro ball game, I’ve never gone nine innings. I would love to go nine or at least get into the ninth this year. It’s just, keep my pitch count down and establish my fastball and I should be OK.”
Over five innings against Atlanta, Rzepczynski allowed four runs (three earned) on six hits with three strikeouts and no walks. He allowed three runs in the second, though one scored courtesy to an error in left by Adam Lind. Rzepcynski said he left a few pitches up, but he did not stray from his sinking fastball, which is a good sign.
“[Pitching coach Bruce Walton] is just saying believe in it,” Rzepczynski said. “The entire spring, it’s just been believe in your fastball. Still throw your other pitches, get those going, but just establish your fastball and throw it so you don’t have to throw eight million thousand sliders like I did last year.
“It’s just believing in it. It’s just, instead of nibbling on the corners, it’s throwing it down the middle and down and away at the knees and if they get under it, they get under it.”
Opening Day Predictions: Part 4
Every weekend from now until the end of camp, I plan on including my current predictions for the Opening Day roster. After 15 games, this is who I believe will be among the 25 players headed north for the Blue Jays:
PITCHERS — Starters: RHP Shaun Marcum, LHP Ricky Romero, RHP Brandon Morrow, LHP Brian Tallet, LHP Marc Rzepczynski. Relievers: RHP Kevin Gregg, LHPScott Downs, RHP Jason Frasor, RHP Shawn Camp, LHP David Purcey, RHP Casey Janssen, RHP Merkin Valdez
POS. PLAYERS: C John Buck, C Jose Molina, 1B Lyle Overbay, 2B Aaron Hill, SS Alex Gonzalez, 3B Edwin Encarnacion, DH Adam Lind, LF Travis Snider, CF Vernon Wells, RF Jose Bautista, INF John McDonald, UTIL Mike McCoy, 1B/DH Randy Ruiz.
CHANGES: LHP Jesse Carlson removed. RHP Jeremy Accardo removed. Merkin Valdez added. David Purcey added.
REASONING: Carlson is currently battling a sore left knee and is scheduled to get back on a mound again soon. He might still be fine for Opening Day, but I’ll hold off on including him here until we know more about his situation. With the left-handed Carlson possibly out, and the left-handed Purcey getting strong early reviews as a reliever, I’ll add him for now. Purcey also has the ability to go more than one inning, which is something Gaston likes. For Accardo v. Valdez, I’m going with Veldez right now purely based on the fact that he is out of options. Toronto is giving him a good look this spring, Cito and the GM have talked him up this week, and he has been getting more game action than Accardo to this point. Encarnacion (left wrist) is a DL possibility, but he made good strides this week and needs less time to get ready, if healthy, than a pitcher would. Snider has been on a tear, so he remains in the mix. Morrow (right shoulder) had a minor setback this week, but believes he can still be ready for OD, so no need to remove him for now.
BIRD FEED: RHP Dustin McGowan (right shoulder) is being shut down for one week and will be re-evaluated after that period of rest. He worked 1 2/3 innings in a Minor League game on Friday and complained of a “dead arm” following the outing. McGowan only topped out at 88 mph and threw half of his pitches for strikes. … Morrow will visit Dr. Steve Mirabello on Sunday to verify that his shoulder issue is not serious. Toronto will then determine if Morrow can make his next scheduled start on Wednesday. … Gaston said Encarnacion and McCoy (right shoulder) will likely play in a Minor League game before returning to Grapefruit League action this week. … The Jays reassigned OF Jorge Padilla, RHP Steven Register, LHP Willie Collazo and LHP Rommie Lewis to Minor League camp. … Gaston started Lind in left, Snider in right and Ruiz at DH on Saturday. Bautista manned third. That could potentially be the Opening Day positioning if Encarnacion needs to open the year on the DL. … Bautista went 2-for-3 out of the leadoff spot on Saturday. … Hill went 1-for-3 with a two-run homer. … Wells had a run-scoring double and is hitting .391 this spring. … Walk-off, two-run double for Minor League Michael McDade sent Jays to a 7-6 win in 10 innings. … Relievers Camp, Downs and Frasor logged one shutout frame apiece. … Closing candidate Kevin Gregg allowed one run on three hits with two strikeouts in one inning, raising his spring ERA to 5.40. “He’s been good,” said Gaston, referring to Gregg. “He’s going to throw harder during the season. He throws a little harder than that. He’s always been a guy who threw a lot of pitches, going out there saving the game. We’d like to see him cut back on that, but he is what he is. As long as he can get out of it, it’s OK.”
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