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Happy Birthday Brett Cecil

ALCS - Cleveland Indians v Toronto Blue Jays - Game Four Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Brett Cecil turns 36 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 from the University of Maryland, where he had been closer. We made him a starter in the minors, 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 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, pitched well there, and then would be 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 go back down. 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 his thumb slicing chicken breasts (or at least that was the story, when you get stories like that, I tend to think something else happened), 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, four 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 the 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.

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, 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 58 today.

Canseco was a Blue Jay in 1998. He hit .237/.318/.518 with 46 home runs (and a league-leading 159 strikeouts). You can understand why he was pretty grumpy with that many home runs 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.