TORONTO -- Glancing around the clubhouse, Brett Cecil scanned the lockers of his rotation mates, running through a mental checklist. The Blue Jays pitcher was in disbelief that he was poised to be the team's first-half wins leader.

"I guess that's right," Cecil said. "That's great."

With eight victories, Cecil will head into the All-Star break with the most victories among any of Toronto's young starters. It is an unexpected development, considering the left-hander began the season with Triple-A Las Vegas -- not Toronto.

Cecil has come a long way since working as a rookie starter for the Jays a year ago, but don't count manager Cito Gaston among those surprised.

"He's pitched great for us, so I'm not surprised at all," Gaston said. "He's changed. He believes in himself a little bit more. When he's out on that mound, I think he thinks he can beat anyone -- that's going to help -- I think he knows that he can."

The development of a solid changeup has added another layer to Cecil's pitch arsenal, but the 24-year-old lefty cites his mental approach as the biggest difference this season. Beyond that, Cecil said working within a young rotation that includes Shaun Marcum, Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, Jesse Litsch and Marc Rzepczynski has helped.

"I'm having a blast, man. It's awesome," said Cecil, who is part of a starting staff that has an average age of just over 25 years old. "It's a lot better now being able to talk to guys that are really all around your age. ... We're all in this together and it's like one big ball of fire coming at you."

Cecil also brought up a topic that has been touched on by other players since the early stages of Spring Training. The lefty said that the Jays' clubhouse seems to be a bit looser without former ace Roy Halladay, who was traded to the Phillies in the offseason.

"I hate to bring up Doc in kind of a not-so-good way," Cecil said. "But with him here it was a little bit tighter, as far as the pitching staff goes. Now, we have the biggest goofball on the team, Marcum, as our ace, which is awesome. I think that's kind of what we needed.

"Last year, if you'd lose a tough game, everybody seemed to come in, sit at their locker, walk silently to go eat, stuff like that. I mean, you don't want to sit here and laugh and giggle after you lose a game, but obviously you need it to be a little loose.

"Losses are a part of this game. Failure is a huge part of this game. I just think you can't have that tightness and tension walking around the clubhouse. I think it's got to be really loose."

Gaston did not buy into the notion that Halladay hindered the clubhouse in any way.

"I just think all that is a little bit blown out [of proportion]," Gaston said. "Doc didn't bother anyone. He went out and did his thing and it's up to you to go out and do your thing. Go out and work as hard as he did and if you really want to do something, why don't you follow what he's doing? That's my feeling."

Snider may start second half with Toronto

TORONTO -- Given the way Travis Snider has been abusing Eastern League pitching, it appears as though the Blue Jays outfielder is over the right wrist ailment that sent him to the disabled list in May.

That does not necessarily mean Snider will rejoin Toronto for the start of the second half.

"Right now, we've got him scheduled to come back later," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said Friday. "He's swinging the bat really well. [General manager Alex Anthopoulos] and I haven't talked about it, but we had it mapped out to go past the All-Star break."

Snider was shelved with the right wrist injury May 15 and has hit .375 through eight Minor League rehab games between stints with Class A Dunedin and Double-A New Hampshire. Through three games at Double-A, Snider has hit .571 with a pair of 4-for-5 performances.

While it was not part of the original rehab plan for Snider, Gaston was quick to add that the Jays have not ruled out activating the outfielder so he can open the second half with Toronto. That scenario simply has not yet been discussed by Gaston and Anthopoulos.

"We'll sit and talk," Gaston said. "We might change our minds. We might leave him down there or we might bring him up when the second half starts."

Ortiz: Bautista should be in Derby

TORONTO -- As far as Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz is concerned, Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista should be included in the State Farm Home Run Derby during the annual All-Star slugfest next week in Anaheim.

"The guy that I'm really worried about is not even in the Derby -- Bautista, man," Ortiz said. "Come on, man. How is he not in the Derby? You need to start a campaign about him being in the Derby."

Ortiz -- scheduled to take part in the Derby -- said Bautista would pose a legitimate power threat. As things stand, though, the American League sluggers who will be included are Detroit's Miguel Cabrera, Toronto's Vernon Wells and Ortiz. That leaves one vacancy.

Bautista, who entered Friday as the Major League leader with 23 home runs, had not been asked to participate as of Thursday night. The Jays' top power hitter of the first half has indicated this week that he is willing to join the contest, though.

"He's the home run leader," Ortiz said. "It's a joke. He has to be there -- he's the leader. I don't care, have two Blue Jays in there. If he wants to be in, he has to be in -- I don't care what anybody says."

Gaston expects Lee to join Yanks eventually

TORONTO -- Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston just assumes that ace Cliff Lee will wind up in Yankees pinstripes at some point. The fact that New York was rumored to be close to landing the lefty in a trade with the Mariners on Friday morning did not surprise Gaston at all.

"It was going to either be this year or next year," Gaston said. "It's going to be sooner or later. That's something I've been saying all year, that he's probably going to end up with the Yankees at the end of the season. They'll probably end up with [Rays outfielder Carl] Crawford, too. Maybe they won't, but that's my feeling."

As things turned out, the Yankees came up short in their attempt at prying Lee from the Mariners, and it was the Rangers who acquired the lefty in a Friday trade that sent Justin Smoak, Blake Beavan, Josh Lueke and Matt Lawson to Texas. Lee and Crawford are both eligible for free agency in the offseason.

Bird feed

Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston gave designated hitter Adam Lind a day off from being in the starting lineup Friday. Gaston opted to sit Lind with Red Sox lefty Jon Lester on the hill. Lind was hitting .143 in his career against Lester and just .105 against left-handed pitching this year. With Lind out, Gaston used backup catcher Jose Molina (5-for-13 in his career against Lester) as the DH and slotted him into the ninth spot. ... Right fielder Jose Bautista's 23 home runs prior to the All-Star break are the most by a Jays hitter since Troy Glaus had 23 before the break in 2006. The last Toronto player to have more than 23 homers before the All-Star break was Carlos Delgado, who had 28 in the first half in '03. ... Left fielder Fred Lewis entered Friday leading the American League with three leadoff homers this season. ... Entering Friday, Lewis led all AL leadoff men in doubles (22), slugging percentage (.460) and extra-base hits (31) and ranked second in home runs (five) and triples (four). ... Entering Friday, the Jays had a streak of five consecutive multihomer games, marking the third-longest run in team history. Toronto set a club record with eight multihomer games in a row June 17-25, 2000.