3/6/2013 7:21 P.M. ET
Cecil knows bullpen spot not a given
By Gregor Chisholm / MLB.com
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Brett Cecil has been around long enough to know there are no guarantees when it comes to his role with the Blue Jays.
Cecil entered each of the past two Spring Trainings with a job in the starting rotation all but locked up. In one of those years, his time in Toronto did not even last a month, while in the other he was a surprise cut at the end of camp.
That is most likely one of the main reasons why Cecil will never leave anything to chance. He is in the mix for one of Toronto's bullpen jobs, but even being out of options on his contract does not mean Cecil feels as if a job will be handed to him.
"I still have to compete for a job," Cecil said. "With this team, [John Gibbons] kind of hit it on the head and said, 'We're going to take the best guys.' They have to, because they didn't make these trades for nothing. We're trying to win a World Series this year. We're not trying to build up to that; we have everything now to get it done."
The Blue Jays won't admit it -- and Cecil certainly hasn't -- but it is hard to envision a scenario in which the four-year veteran does not make the 25-man roster. Toronto has invested a lot of time and money over the years into the former 15-game winner who was taken with a supplemental pick of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft.
At 26, the Maryland native still has plenty of potential on the mound. His is the type of talent that has virtually no chance of sneaking through waivers, and it would seem ill-advised to let him go without at least some type of compensation in return.
Cecil's time as a starter in Toronto might be over, but his skillset is still very appealing in a new bullpen role. Lefties have managed to hit just .232 with a .657 OPS in 469 at-bats during Cecil's career compared with an average of .291 and .848 OPS against righties.
The favorable splits made him an intriguing lefty specialist for former manager John Farrell. Under Gibbons, the plan seems to be more geared toward Cecil's assuming a role in long relief, but either way he could become an interesting tandem with fellow lefty Darren Oliver in the bullpen.
"He's not going to rattle, and he throws strikes at you," said Gibbons, who has numerous other candidates in mind for the job as well. "But it's a big decision because it's really one spot and there's a number of guys. You want to make sure you get it right, because there are a couple of guys in that group, and somebody else will grab them."
Cecil's velocity -- or lack thereof -- had been one of the main topics surrounding the Blue Jays in each of the past two Spring Trainings. He mysteriously went from throwing in the low 90s to mid 80s during one offseason and until recently had been unable to regain that speed.
That issue appears to be at least somewhat resolved by going through the Velocity Program run by founder Jamie Evans this offseason. It is a program that involves the use of weighted balls to mimic the throwing motion and build arm strength.
Fellow Blue Jays pitcher Steve Delabar helped make the program famous by using it to return from a fractured right elbow. Earlier in his career, Delabar was throwing in the low 90s, but he now has upper-90s velocity and last year became one of the club's most dominant relievers.
"I think it has helped, my spring first game I was 89-91 mph," Cecil said. "At first, I felt like I felt a lot better than that, but looking at the last two Spring Trainings, I came out throwing 83, 84, 85. So then I realized it's there. It's just going to keep building up."
Added velocity might be the most talked about aspect of this training routine, but increased strength is easily the most important element. The program helps pitchers bounce back quicker, and the hope is that a stronger shoulder will lead to fewer injuries down the road.
Just like with every new advancement in training routines, there are a couple of myths associated with Velocity. Some believe it could lead to injuries during workouts, but Cecil said that is simply not the case. He went in for personal testing with Evans prior to following the routine and had a program designed specifically for his body.
The only horror stories he has heard involved people who did not know much about the program and tried to do it on their own. They tried to do too much too soon, and the results were rather predictable.
"They just blew it way out of proportion," Cecil said. "They were doing 20 reps when they were only supposed to do five and ended up getting injured. But you do the program right, I don't really think that it can hurt you at all.
"I asked those questions when [Evans] came into Baltimore and talked to us. I made sense of everything that he was saying and that wasn't the only deciding factor, talking to him, all that information that I got from Delabar seemed pretty clear too. I decided to do it even before I met Jamie, but just in talking and making sense of everything, it helped a lot."