At the tail end of Spring Training a year ago, with just a few days left until camp broke, left-hander Ricky Romero took the mound at Osceola County Stadium and won a job in the Blue Jays’ rotation with an impressive outing against the Astros in Kissimmee.
On Wednesday, it was hard not to recall that outing.
Lefty Brett Cecil took the hill at Bright House Field, knowing it was his last shot to convince Toronto hand him a starting job. Facing an All-Star studded Phillies lineup, all Cecil did was log six strong innings, allowing two solo homers and striking out four with no walks.
“He delivered,” Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. “He went out and did a great job — just an absolutely great job.”
Will it ultimately win Cecil a spot in the rotation?
We might find out tomorrow. The Jays hope to be able to announce their rotation on Thursday (me too since I have an evening flight tomorrow!), because they fly to Houston on Friday morning and don’t want to bring anyone who will not be with the club on Opening Day.
Lefty Brian Tallet is scheduled to start on Thursday in the Florida spring finale, and his outing could determine if he winds up in the bullpen or rotation. It appears to be down to Cecil, Tallet and Dana Eveland for two spots. That is, unless Brandon Morrow’s right shoulder acts up between now and the season opener.
Toronto will break with 12 pitchers and the club has 14 left in camp right now: Shaun Marcum (lock), Ricky Romero (lock), Morrow, Cecil, Tallet (out of options), Eveland (out of options), Jason Frasor (lock), Scott Downs (lock), Kevin Gregg (lock), Shawn Camp (out of options), Merkin Valdez (out of options), Casey Janssen, Jeremy Accardo and Josh Roenicke.
I see two rotation scenarios:
1. The Jays go with Cecil and one of Tallet/Eveland in the rotation, and send one of Tallet/Eveland to the bullpen. Under this scenario, two relievers who need to be bumped to the Minors. I’d say Accardo and Roenicke might be the two, since they both have options left and the Jays want to protect their depth if possible.
2. The Jays go with Tallet and Eveland and option Cecil to Triple-A. That’d be a tough break for Cecil, who looks like he’s earned a job with his last few outings. Under this scenario, only one reliever would need to be sent back down to the Minors. Again, I see it coming down to Accardo of Roenicke. Janssen has options, but he’s had a fantastic spring.
THE REST OF THE ROSTER: One minor move on Wednesday brought the makeup of the non-pitching portion of the roster into focus. The Jays reassigned catcher Raul Chavez to Minor League camp, meaning Jose Molina will break as the backup catcher to starter John Buck.
Barring any late-spring additions via waivers or trades, that means the 13 position players will be as follows: 1B Lyle Overbay, 2B Aaron Hill, SS Alex Gonzalez, 3B Edwin Encarnacion, LF Travis Snider, CF Vernon Wells, RF Jose Bautista, DH Adam Lind, C John Buck, C Jose Molina, SS John McDonald, 1B/DH Randy Ruiz, UTIL Mike McCoy.
QUOTABLE: “I’m the best looking, that’s for sure.” –Jose Molina, asked which of the Molina brothers was the best catcher
HAPPY TO HELP: One thing that Molina said he prides himself on is having an open line of communication with his pitchers. He enjoyed working with younger pitchers and that’s one reason he chose to sign with the Blue Jays. Ricky Romero offered one example of a time Molina offered some advice already this spring.
“When we threw in Orlando,” Romero said, “he was coming up to me and we were talking about hitters and pitches and it’s always a good feeling when you have that luxury of having a guy like that. The thing he has said is, ‘You have such good stuff at times, it moves so much, that you just have to learn to throw it down the middle and kind of just let it work.’ I think where I get in trouble sometimes is when I try to be too fine with pitches. That’s what gets me deep in counts and stuff like that. It’s good to have him here to talk about things like that.”
BIRD FEED: Opening Day starter Shaun Marcum pitched in a Triple-A game on Wednesday, allowing three runs on five hits, including one homer, over a five-inning, 66-pitch outing. Marcum struck out five and walked none. Buck said Marcum looked “really sharp” in his final tuneup for Opening Day. The lone exception was an elevated pitch that was belted for the homer. … Gaston named Frasor the primary closer on Wednesday, after making it pretty clear last week that that was the way he was leaning. … Hill launched a two-run homer on the first pitch he received from former Jays ace Roy Halladay on Wednesday. … In the first inning against Halladay, the Jays scored four runs on five hits, including three for four for extra bases. “I think we’re all shocked it kind of happened, too,” said Lind, who doubled. … Downs, Frasor and Valdez each logged a shutout inning on Wednesday against the Phillies. Valdez has impressed the Jays this spring and appears to have quietly captured a bullpen job. Again, though, the Jays have not announced any relievers beyond Frasor, Gregg and Downs.
QUOTABLE II: “It was kind of weird actually toeing up against him. He’s thinner than I thought he was. It could be the red.” –Lind, on Halladay
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: You may have noticed a slight change to the bluejays.com news content. We are introducing a new feature called “The Beat,” which will include small items that would have been shorter “notebook” news items in past formats. I’m not sure how this will affect how I use this blog, if at all. It’s a work in progress, but should make bluejays.com an even better source for news during the upcoming season.