Brett Cecil turns 32 today. For some reason I thought he would be older.
Brett was a Blue Jays first round pick in 2007 (38th overall). He was actually our second first round pick that year, we got the pick for the loss of free agent Frank Catalanotto. We would have 5 first round picks (4 of them first round supplimental picks). We would pick Kevin Ahrens, J.P. Arencibia, Cecil, Justin Jackson and Trystan Magnuson with those picks. I think Cecil is the only one still in baseball.
He was taken out of the University of Maryland, where he had been the closer. We made him a starter, in the minors, and shot quickly through our minor league system and made his first start for Toronto on May 5, 2009, going 6 innings, with just 1 earned, no walks and 6 strikeouts, but he hit 3 batters. He missed a bit of time with an injury, but made 18 appearances, 17 starts and was 7-4 with a 5.30 ERA.
In 2010 he started the season in the minors, but would be called up in mid-April, taking Brian Tallet’s spot in the rotation, and he stayed there all season long, finishing 15-7 (tops on the team for wins), with a 4.22 ERA.
2011 was a bad season for Brett. It started bad in spring training when everyone was worried about his velocity right from, seemingly, his first throw of spring. I was of the opinion that he should have been more worried about hitting his spots and less about what it said on the radar gun, but things went downhill in a hurry.
He made 4 bad starts in April and was sent to the minors. After 12 pretty OK Triple A starts (considering what a terrible place Vegas was for pitchers), he got called up at the end of June and was somewhat better, until he cut his hand “cleaning out a blender” in September. For the season he was 4-11 with a 4.73 ERA in 20 starts.
After a bad spring in 2012, the Jays sent Cecil to Double-A New Hampshire to start the season. He would have 9 good starts for the Fisher Cats, get moved up to Vegas, pitch well there and then called up when Brandon Morrow, Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison would all go on the DL within a week of each other (yes yes, I was at those games). He would make 9 starts, put up a 5.79 and was send back down. When he was called back up in September, he was a reliever.
Pitching in relief was the right move. He had 3 terrific seasons in our pen, putting up ERAs of 2.82 in 2013, 2.70 in 2104 and 2.48 in 2015. Or if you would rather OPS, he held batters to .594, .627 and .562 over the three seasons. The nice part was that he was equally good against right-handed and left-handed batters. In 2015 he didn’t give up an earned run after June 21.
2016 was a little less terrific. He had a crappy start to the season, missed most of May and June (with a lat muscle tear, his muscles seem to tear easy), was crappy again in July, and then back to being himself in August and September.
Brett’s time with the Jays was kind of injury filled. He cut his hand on the blender, cut hit thumb slicing chicken breasts, had back problems, had elbow inflammation. And, most famously, tore a calf muscle 2015’s ALDS, which put him out the ALCS.
After the 2016 season he signed a big free agent contract with the Cardinals, 4 years and $29.75 million. It seemed like a lot of money for an often injured reliever. He was pretty good for them last year, pitched in 73 games and had a 3.88 ERA. This year he was injured in their opening day game and missed more than a month with a shoulder problem. Coming back mid-May, he’s pitched in 20 games with a 4.00 ERA.
I was always a fan, I love the guys that can be successful without an overpowering fastball. I loved Cecil’s curveball. It was a thing of beauty. He was my litmus test on whether I thought you were a real Jays fan or not. I found casual fans seemed to dislike him, or at least that was my impression.
Cecil is #10 on our franchise list for pitching appearances and will stay in that spot for at least a couple more years, as no one is coming up on him If you were making a list of best lefty relievers in Jays history, either Brett or Scott Downs should be at the top of your list.
Happy Birthday Brett. I hope it is a good one.