Cecil earning valuable points with Jays
Lefty's six solid frames, early offense take down White Sox
TORONTO -- Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi didn't hold back in his assessment of pitcher Brett Cecil two weeks ago. Ricciardi bluntly stated that Cecil wasn't ready for the big league stage and was only being summoned from the Minor Leagues out of necessity.
Things have changed.
On Friday night, Cecil benefited from a wealth of run support and added another solid performance to his resume, helping the Blue Jays to an 8-3 victory over the White Sox at Rogers Centre. Now, after showing that he can hold his own for the time being, Cecil appears to be more than just a stopgap solution for a depleted rotation.
Prior to Cecil's outing against Chicago, Ricciardi sat inside Toronto's dugout, discussing the current state of the starting staff. The way Ricciardi views the situation at the moment, the three arms called upon to hold down the fort -- Cecil, Robert Ray and Brian Tallet -- haven't done anything to lose their respective spots in the rotation.
"Everybody we've put out there has pitched well," Ricciardi said. "They're all deserving to be out there."
That could be tough news to hear for pitchers Ricky Romero, Casey Janssen and Jesse Litsch, who lost their starting roles due to injuries. Other than ace Roy Halladay, Ricciardi said none of the other starters have earned the right to bump someone out of a job. So just because Janssen and Romero are now off the disabled list, that doesn't mean they'll automatically be handed roles right away.
"Right now, we don't have a spot for them," Ricciardi said. "If we think the guy down below is pitching better than the guy up here, we'll make a change. I think it's been like that all year. Our rotation is a little bit of a moving part."
Romero -- shelved with a right oblique injury on April 23 after posting a 1.71 ERA in his first three starts -- was activated from the 15-day DL on Friday and optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas. Janssen, who lost his bid for a rotation job this past spring due to a right shoulder issue, is currently in the rotation with Double-A New Hampshire.
Litsch, who won 13 games last season for the Jays and entered this season as the club's No. 2 starter, landed on the DL on April 14 after he experienced some pain in his right elbow and forearm. He is currently on a throwing program at Toronto's complex in Dunedin, Fla., and Ricciardi said the pitcher could be back by mid-June.
According to Ricciardi, though, even Litsch doesn't have a guaranteed job when he's healthy.
"If you look at our rotation, there's one guy that deserves all the benefits that come," Ricciardi said. "That's Halladay. Everybody else is a young guy with not a lot of experience."
That being the case, the Blue Jays (24-14) will keep running their current five starters to the hill, hoping for the same type of production they've been getting all season. Toronto has already had nine pitchers make at least two starts, and yet the team's staff ERA of 4.34 was fourth in the American League, entering Friday.
Among the many arms, the 22-year-old Cecil has been a pleasant surprise for the Blue Jays. The left-hander logged six innings in a win over the White Sox (15-19), allowing three runs on six hits. Cecil allowed a pair of home runs -- a solo shot to Paul Konerko in the fifth inning and a two-run blast to Jermaine Dye in the sixth -- but he still improved to 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA.
It certainly helped that Cecil had eight runs to work with after only four innings.
Toronto's lineup chased Chicago's John Danks (2-3) after just three-plus frames, pounding the lefty for seven runs on nine hits. In the third, Jays second baseman Aaron Hill launched a two-run homer -- his 10th blast of the season -- and the club pieced together a six-run outburst in the fourth. Toronto opened that inning with seven consecutive hits en route to an 8-0 lead.
"The guys got the bats back out tonight and scored some runs," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. "That gave Cecil a chance to relax a little bit. He did a good job. He kept us in the game. I thought his strike-throwing might have been off a little bit tonight, but overall, he did a good job."
Cecil at least did well enough to buy himself a few more turns in the rotation. Ricciardi said it would take a significant downturn to convince the club to demote any of its starters -- much like how Toronto handed the ball to a struggling David Purcey five times before sending him back to Triple-A earlier this season.
The leash appears to be a bit longer than it was two weeks ago for Cecil, but he knows not to take anything for granted.
"At this level, you have to prove that you're capable of being here," Cecil said. "These guys, they've got to win games, and if you can't do that, then they're going to get somebody who will. ... You've got to go out and perform, and once you get to this level, you've to to be able to make adjustments on the mound."
As complex of an issue as Toronto's rotation situation has become -- there's also a slim chance that injured starters Shaun Marcum (right elbow) and Dustin McGowan (right shoulder) could be ready to contribute before the end of the season -- it has at least provided a glimpse of the organization's future on the mound.
That, as far as Ricciardi is concerned, is a good problem to have.
"We feel like we've got a real good system," Ricciardi said. "We have a lot of depth that, ultimately, it's going to be a good rotation. We're just going through this phase now of figuring out, 'What's the best five?'
"Wait until tomorrow. I'll say something else. We're making this up as we go."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.