Brett Cecil turns 35 today.
Brett was a Blue Jays first-round pick in 2007 (38th overall), our second first-round pick. We got the selection for the loss of free agent Frank Catalanotto and would have five first-round picks (four supplemental picks). We picked Kevin Ahrens, J.P. Arencibia, Cecil, Justin Jackson, and Trystan Magnuson. Cecil was the one that lasted the longest in the major leagues.
He came out of the University of Maryland, where he had been 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 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 lousy season for Brett. It started badly in spring training when everyone was worried about his velocity right from, seemingly, his first throw of spring. I thought that he should have been more concerned about hitting his spots and less about what it said on the radar gun, but things went downhill in a hurry.
He made four bad starts in April and got sent to the minors. Then, after 12 pretty OK Triple-A starts (considering what a terrible place Las 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, I was at those games). He would make 9 starts, put up a 5.79, and back down he went. When he came back up in September, he was a reliever.
Pitching in relief was the right move. Brett had three 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 good part was that Brett 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. Cecil had a crappy start to the season, missed most of May and June (with a lat muscle tear, his muscles seem to tear easily), was crappy again in July, and back to being himself in August and September.
Brett’s time with the Jays was injury-filled. He cut his hand on the blender, cut hit thumb slicing chicken breasts, had back problems, had elbow inflammation. But, most famously, he tore a calf muscle in 2015’s ALDS, which put him out of 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. However, the first year of the contract went well. He pitched in 73 games and had a 3.88 ERA. In 2018 he was injured in their opening day game and missed more than a month with a shoulder problem. In 2017 pitched in 40 games and had a 6.89 ERA.
He has missed all of 2019 after surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome. He came to Cardinals’ summer camp with a new sidearm delivery last year, but he was released before the season started and has been out of baseball since. So you would think, with all the injuries in the MLB, that if he could pitch at all, he’d give it another shot this year.
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.
Cecil is #10 on our franchise list for pitching appearances, and he is in no danger of anyone passing him. If you were making a list of the 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.
Jose Canseco turns 57 today.
Canseco was a Blue Jay in 1998. He hit .237/.318/.518 with 46 home runs (and a league-leading 159 strikeouts). So he was pretty grumpy when the Jays didn’t sign him for 1999.
I think he played for some other teams too. He was such a quiet guy that you never noticed him.