Brett Cecil Solid in Triple-A Start


LAS VEGAS – Brett Cecil hurled a quality start and his teammates supplied more than enough offense as the Las Vegas 51s defeated the Tucson Padres 9-3 at Cashman Field on Tuesday night.

Making his first Triple-A start of the season following a 3.38 ERA over his last 10 outings with Double-A New Hampshire, Cecil was in control for most of the night. Facing a Tucson lineup of almost entirely right-handed hitters, Cecil limited the Padres to seven singles in the first six innings, working primarily on the outer half of the plate except against Padres first baseman Matt Clark, Tucson’s lone left-handed hitter.

Cecil’s heavily-used fastball periodically touched 89 mph and hit 90 twice, but was otherwise thrown almost exclusively at 88 mph with the occasional 85/86. If he missed outside with his fastball it wasn’t by much, and he was hitting his spots with it when he needed to. He didn’t have his best curveball, as it sat between 75 and 78 mph and was up in the zone more often than not, but his slider, which touched 85 mph, and his changeup, which sat 80-82 mph, looked really good when compared to some of his outings in the past.

Cecil ran into some trouble in the top of the seventh, when Padres right fielder Jonathan Roof followed up back-to-back one-out singles with a RBI double from  to put runners on second and third. A groundout plated Tucson’s second run, but a heads-up throw to third from 51s shortstop Jonathan Diaz got the second out of the inning. After a hard-hit double to left center put runners on second and third once again, though, Cecil was pulled from the game.

“I think I was just trying to do a little bit too much, I knew that it was probably going to be my last inning,” Cecil said of the seventh. “I would’ve liked to end the game with no runs but I was just trying to do too much, trying to make my fastball firmer.”

Clint Everts came on in relief and fired a wild pitch that scored the third run of the game, which was charged to Cecil. Even still, Cecil was pleased with the outing, that had a final line of three earned runs on 11 hits with six strikeouts.

“No walks, I gave up a few more hits that I would’ve liked to, but it was pretty good I thought,” Cecil said of his quality start.

After taking a 13-hour bus ride with the Fisher Cats from New Hampshire to Richmond on Monday for a three-game series against the Flying Squirrels, Cecil was notified of his Triple-A assignment at 9:30 pm that night. Going off of a six-hour nap, Cecil traveled all day Tuesday to make it in time for his start with the 51s.

Cecil said the hectic travel schedule didn’t affect his start, but the new Las Vegas climate did.

“I don’t think it was [the travel], as much as just coming back to the air up here,” he said. “I told one of the guys that I was out of breath throwing my pen warming up for the game. When I’ve come to Vegas [in the past] I’ve had at least a few days to get accustomed to it, but having come here, I went straight to the hotel and then right to the ballpark so obviously I didn’t spend much time outside.

“As soon as I got out there, near the end of my bullpen I started to feel myself breathing heavy trying to get that thin air into my lungs.”

Catcher Travis d’Arnaud led the 51s’ offense with a 4-for-5 night, and looked every bit like the No. 1 prospect that he is. After fouling a pitch off in the first inning to fall behind 0-2, d’Arnaud took the next pitch for a ball before hitting an opposite-field double down the right field line. In the third inning, d’Arnaud opted to swing at a first-pitch breaking ball, which he drove over the wall in right-center field for a two-run home run, his 15th of the season.

In his next at-bat, d’Arnaud roped a first-pitch, two-out single to right field and quickly found himself a triple shy of hitting for the cycle in only the fourth inning.

“I was messing around with the guys a little bit about it but that’s about it,” he said about the potential cycle. “I tried not to over-think anything and just stay simple.”

Overlooked in the box score was a stellar defensive play by d’Arnaud. After Cecil had given up back-to-back singles in the top of the fifth inning, d’Arnaud picked his pitcher up by firing an absolute laser to second base to pick off Padres third baseman Jesus Merchan. The throw was on a line — nearly taking Cecil’s head off — and arrived at the bag before Merchan realized what had just happened.

Anthony Gose, starting in left field, also had a nice night on both sides of the ball. In the field, he notched an outfield assist in the top of the fourth after firing a no-bounce throw to home plate that arrived almost two full seconds ahead of the runner, who d’Arnaud simply tagged out standing up. After the play, “ooohs” and “ahhs” were heard from the crowd, along with applause and cheers.

At the plate, Gose executed a perfect squeeze bunt with two outs and the bases loaded in the second inning to reach base and drive a run in. It was easy to see that he’s been working on his two-strike approach as well, as he fouled off a 1-2 pitch to stay alive in the sixth before slapping a single to the opposite field in left. In the bottom of the eighth, Gose roped another 1-2 pitch down the line in left field for a double, finishing the night 3-for-4 with a walk, a double and a RBI.

Center fielder Moises Sierra quietly reached base in all five of his plate appearances and definitely impressed. In addition to getting hit by a pitch and drawing a pair of full-count walks, he hit a first-pitch moon shot over the scoreboard in left field for a solo home run in the fifth.

Sierra’s maximum effort was also noticeable, as he hit a high chopper in the eighth but hustled his way down to first base to beat the throw in a bang-bang play at the bag. He also scored from second on a single earlier in the game to beat the throw at home.

Overall, the 51s’ offense pounded out nine runs on 15 hits, nearly half of which were for extra bases. Adam Lind hit a two-run home run off a curveball for his third homer in two nights and Adeiny Hechavarria hustled out his third triple of the season as well.

The 51s look to complete a three-game sweep of the Padres in the series finale tonight at Cashman Field. Right-hander Jesse Chavez (6-2, 3.68 ERA) takes the hill for Las Vegas.