Pain in left knee catches up to Cecil
Toronto rookie southpaw leaves start after fielding bunt
TORONTO -- One look at the scoreboard, and Blue Jays rookie pitcher Brett Cecil knew there was no hiding the fact his left knee was bothering him. After each of the five pitches he threw in the fifth inning, the word "changeup" flashed for everyone inside Rogers Centre to see.
There was only one problem.
"They were fastballs," Cecil said.
After falling hard to the ground on a bunt single by Baltimore's Robert Andino with one out in the fifth, Cecil admitted to Toronto manager Cito Gaston and head trainer George Poulis that his knee indeed was causing some problems. Cecil exited the Jays' 3-2, 10-inning win over the Orioles and underwent an MRI exam to evaluate the extent of the injury.
The Blue Jays will know the results on Sunday, and there's a realistic chance the club will take extra caution with the young left-hander. Following the game, Cecil was optimistic that the injury -- one that dates back to Spring Training -- would not force him to miss any time.
"I'm sure it's fine," said Cecil, who is 5-1 with a 4.35 ERA for the Blue Jays this season. "I'm walking fine. I don't expect anything to be torn or anything. I don't expect to miss anything."
The 23-year-old Cecil, who was selected 38th overall in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, said he first experienced some minor pain in his left knee during Spring Training and then again later in the year while he was with Triple-A Las Vegas. This time around, the lefty said the discomfort began to flare up in the third inning against the Orioles.
By the fifth inning, the pain had worsened for Cecil, and Blue Jays catcher Raul Chavez could tell something was wrong, especially after the bunt play. With one out, Andino bunted a pitch down the first-base line, where Cecil bent to retrieve the ball, using his glove to flip it to first baseman Lyle Overbay before stumbling to the turf.
Cecil shifted to one knee and winced in pain before standing and heading back to the hill. By that time, Gaston and Poulis already were jogging onto the field to talk things over with the pitcher.
"I was looking at Chavy behind the plate," Cecil said. "He was kind of hesitating, kind of looking at me funny, saying, 'You OK?' I didn't shake my head yes or no. I stood there, and he threw it back. And [on] the bunt, I went over there and I thought I had him out. I came back to the mound, and Chavy was there waiting.
"He was like, 'Papi, you've got to tell me the truth. Are you OK?' I said, 'No.' I said, 'My knee is killing me right now.'"
Cecil said the discomfort mainly occurs when he pushes off the mound while throwing. As a result, he was not getting as much force as usual behind his pitches toward the end of his outing on Saturday.
"I don't really expect anything serious," Cecil reiterated. "It's just kind of a nagging pain that's been going on. It's my left knee -- the drag leg. Every time I go to throw and drag that foot, it pulls on the inside of my knee. It's almost like I've got to pick my leg up first and then throw it, instead of pushing off."
Cecil, who allowed two runs on four hits over 4 1/3 innings, has logged 119 1/3 innings this season between Toronto and Las Vegas, representing a career high. Given the pitcher's work load, Gaston said the Blue Jays planned on limiting Cecil's innings come September.
Backing Cecil off could be one option, but Gaston said he was not sure yet if the pitcher would need to miss any time.
"We don't know yet," Gaston said. "He strained his knee there pushing off. Right now, it's just day-to-day. We don't really know right now. We'll check it out and see what happens."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.