4/24/2013 7:19 P.M. ET
Blue Jays reliever Cecil has impressed Gibbons
By Gregor Chisholm / MLB.com
BALTIMORE -- Left-hander Brett Cecil has become one of the biggest surprises for the Blue Jays through the first few weeks of the season.
Cecil was singled out by manager John Gibbons on Wednesday morning as being the player who has exceeded expectations during the early going.
The 26-year-old Cecil had to compete for a job during Spring Training, but so far has been one of the more effective relievers in the league by allowing just two earned runs in 11 1/3 innings entering Wednesday.
"The one guy that really jumps out at you is Cecil," Gibbons said. "From not even guaranteed a spot in Spring Training to being the long guy, that was basically his role."
Most of the credit to Cecil's strong start has been attributed to his increased velocity. Last year, Cecil averaged just 89 mph on his fastball according to Brooks Baseball, but this season that number has jumped to 93.
One of the reasons for that spike has been Cecil's use of a weighted ball program that also was used by right-hander Steve Delabar in his comeback from a fractured right elbow.
But Gibbons believes that Cecil's success stems from more than just the fastball. Midway through Spring Training, Toronto's manager noticed that Cecil was using his offspeed pitches with more regularity, and it was leading to better overall results.
"The real focus was getting his velocity back and he was showing signs of doing that, but you've still got to be a pitcher," Gibbons said. "He came in and he started throwing his breaking ball, his changeup, and everything came together after that.
"Early on, I don't know if he was trying to show us his fastball or establish that thing -- the velocity -- but he wasn't throwing a lot of strikes with it. Then, when he started doing that, he basically turned into a pitcher."
Gibbons ejected for arguing strike call in ninth
BALTIMORE -- Blue Jays manager John Gibbons was ejected during the ninth inning of Wednesday afternoon's 6-5 victory over the Orioles for arguing balls and strikes with home-plate umpire Mike DiMuro.
Gibbons was visibly upset with DiMuro's strike zone earlier in the game and was seen chirping at the umpire from the dugout. He appeared to receive a warning from DiMuro when Baltimore's Nate McLouth took a borderline pitch during the fifth inning that went against the Blue Jays.
The final straw for Gibbons came in the top of the ninth when third baseman Brett Lawrie was called out on strikes with the scored tied at 5 to end the inning. Lawrie immediately turned to argue the call and was quickly defended by Gibbons, who was tossed within seconds.
"I thought there was some borderline calls throughout the game," Gibbons said. "It's tough recognizing in and out when you're on the side like that, but I thought there might have been a couple of close calls.
"Basically, I went out there to keep [Lawrie] from getting thrown out. I asked the guy, 'Where was that pitch?' Then he chucked me. You can't argue balls and strikes, but I'm not so sure I was doing that."
Another incident occurred in the 10th inning when Emilio Bonifacio was called out on strikes on a pitch that appeared to be inside. Bonifacio also immediately turned to argue and was waved away several times by DiMuro before he finally walked back to the dugout.
This marked the first time this season Gibbons was ejected from a game.
Laffey back in familiar territory with Toronto
BALTIMORE -- Left-hander Aaron Laffey's career has come full circle in just a matter of months.
Laffey and the Blue Jays parted ways at the end of last season when the seven-year veteran agreed to a Minor League deal with the Mets. Fast forward to April and Laffey finds himself back in Toronto after the club claimed him off waivers from New York.
The 28-year-old joined the Blue Jays prior to their game on Wednesday afternoon against the Orioles and will serve as the long reliever while also potentially being available for spot starts when necessary.
"It was funny, because all day, just hanging around during the day I got claimed, I actually had a Blue Jays dry-fit on because I was getting ready to play catch," Laffey said. "Then I got the call, and I was on the phone talking to my wife, and when the Mets told me it was the Blue Jays, I just pointed to my shirt to my wife.
"It was just funny, I've been with a couple of different teams now, so I knew the possibility of getting picked up was pretty likely. Not that the beginning of the season would be the determining factor on whether a team would claim me or not."
Laffey signed an offseason deal with the Mets because he felt like it was his best opportunity to win a job on a Major League roster. He was able to do that, but a rough start to the season ultimately ended up costing him the opportunity.
The native of Maryland appeared in four games for New York -- including two starts -- and allowed eight runs in 10 innings. The Mets were quick to pull the plug, but Toronto immediately made a move at least in part because of the role Laffey had with the organization last year.
During the 2012 campaign, Laffey appeared in 22 games for Toronto and posted a 4.56 ERA in 100 2/3 innings. He was a member of the starting rotation from the end of June until the end of the season after the club suffered a series of injuries to its rotation.
If there's one major positive to take away from the roller-coaster start to the year for Laffey, it's that he's back in familiar territory.
"For me, the people that I draw to the most are the people that I recognize, so for me it hasn't really changed a ton," Laffey said. "From the outside looking in you see a lot of new names and faces, but I've played against all of these guys, so pretty much any club you go into, you're going to know people and recognize everybody, so for me it's not really that big of a change."
Pain causing Dickey to alter release point
BALTIMORE -- Blue Jays knuckleballer R.A. Dickey's upper-back and neck injury hasn't been enough to force him to miss a start, but it is making things more challenging on the mound.
Dickey has been able to pitch his way through the discomfort and tightness, but it hasn't been easy. The injury has slightly impacted the velocity on his knuckleball, which has repercussions with the release point on each pitch.
The 38-year-old Dickey began the year by averaging 77 mph on his knuckleball according to Brooks Baseball, but has seen that speed drop down to 75 during his past two outings. It might seem minor, but it has led to more experimentation on the mound than normal.
"Obviously when you're throwing a ball that's not traveling as fast, you've got to start it higher in order to get it to the plate and strike zone," Dickey said after allowing four runs in six innings against the Orioles on Tuesday night.
"If I throw a 79-mph knuckleball, I can start it a little bit more on plane. I've done it before, I can continue to do it, I'm just trying to get ahead of the condition here, and hopefully next time out we're going to try some different treatments and see if it works."
It might seem as though Dickey is off to somewhat of a slow start this season, but in many ways his April is very comparable to what he went through a year ago.
Dickey owns a 4.66 ERA with 24 strikeouts in 29 innings while opponents are hitting .257 against him. Those numbers are strikingly similar to last season, when he had a 4.45 ERA in 30 1/3 innings with opponents hitting .246 during April.
Both months saw the numbers skewed because of one bad start. Last year it was an outing against the Braves in which he allowed eight earned runs, while this season it was seven earned runs against Boston.
During a brief exchange on Wednesday morning, Dickey said it was too early to know how he feels following the start the night before, but there doesn't appear to be any intention of sitting out for a period of time.
"No, you certainly contemplate how can you eradicate what's going on back there, but I get paid to be on the field and I take a lot of pride in that," Dickey said on Tuesday. "I feel like my team needs me, and if I can be out there, I'm going to be out there."