Blue Jays officially confirm that Brett Cecil will open season as closer
Brett Cecil has spent plenty of time on the campaign trail this spring, asserting that he wanted to become the team’s next closer to anyone willing to hear it. On Sunday, Toronto Blue Jays manager John Gibbons confirmed to the media (HT Gregor Chisholm) that Cecil will indeed start the season in the role and it is his to lose.
Despite not making an appearance yet during Grapefruit League play, Cecil has apparently shown enough to ensure the team that he will be healthy in time for Opening Day on April 6th against the New York Yankees. By getting the competition point out of the way now, the Blue Jays give Cecil the time to focus on getting himself ready rather than winning a job. Of course, the fact that he was going to be named closer has been almost a foregone conclusion from the onset of camp. However, it was made much clearer when Marcus Stroman suffered a season-ending ACL tear on March 10, taking Cecil’s strongest competitor Aaron Sanchez and placing him into the rotation mix.
Since converting to a full-time reliever prior to the 2013 season, Brett Cecil has established himself as one of the elite set-up men in the game. In 114 innings of work over the last two seasons, the 28-year-old left-hander owns a 7-4 record against a 2.76 ERA, a 52.5% ground-ball rate, and a 11.5 K/9 rate. Additionally, advanced metrics also recognize Cecil as the real deal, with an FIP of 2.63, a SIERA of 2.49, an ERA+ of 114, a 1.66 Win Probability Added (WPA), and a game leverage index (gmLI) of 1.145.
The Blue Jays will look to parlay that success in high leverage situations into success in the 9th inning. Cecil will be stepping into a role that was previously held by Casey Janssen, who the Blue Jays opted not to bring back and watched subsequently sign a one-year deal as a set-up man with the Washington Nationals.
Now, the question comes as to who will line-up and help get the game to Brett Cecil. As it currently stands, the set-up corps will certainly include Aaron Loup, and former All-Star Steve Delabar has shown that he is back in form after a down year in 2014. Additionally, youngster Miguel Castro has opened many eyes this spring and looks almost guaranteed to enter the season in the bullpen. Like Castro, Roberto Osuna has been electric in camp, but just a year removed from Tommy John surgery and with a higher ceiling that Castro, Osuna may start the year at Double-A so that he can continue on the path set out before him. Marco Estrada will likely be in the mix as well, with Daniel Norris almost a lock to win the final spot in the rotation ahead of Estrada.
But for now, we have the ninth inning nailed down, and the 2015 roster is starting to come into clearer view just in time for Opening Day.
Next: Talking Rays on the latest Jays Nest podcast