As the lone left-hander in the Toronto Blue Jays bullpen, Brett Cecil takes on a heightened responsibility for the overall success of the group
For the second consecutive season, Blue Jays reliever Brett Cecil is struggling out of the gates.
It’s overwhelmingly likely that he rights the ship very shortly, returning to form as one of the league’s top left-handed bullpen options. Until then, though, the current state of the Blue Jays bullpen makes Cecil the wobbly leg on the table.
This isn’t a fair level of responsibility to place on Cecil, but with Franklin Morales on the 15-day disabled list, he stands alone as the bullpen’s only lefty option. With this, several of the Blue Jays relief arms are directly impacted by Cecil’s success (or failure).
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Cecil’s early struggles have forced the Jays to patchwork their way around their ideal structure of Cecil, Drew Storen, and Roberto Osuna from the seventh inning onwards. Thankfully the presence of Gavin Floyd and Jesse Chavez has given manager John Gibbons some level of flexibility, but the ‘pen remains hamstrung.
In 2015, Cecil’s early struggles as the Jays closer lasted for about a month before he enjoyed a strong May (1.13 ERA and .207 opponent’s average). A handful of ugly outings in June ballooned that ERA again, but in his 37 games from June 24th on, Cecil didn’t allow one single run. Nothing.
Over that span, Cecil held opponents to a batting line of .153 / .183 / .207, striking out 44 batters and walking just four in those 31.2 innings. There’s a strong argument to be made that he was the most dominant relief pitcher in Major League Baseball for that second half of the season.
Through his first four appearances in 2016 (2.2 IP), Cecil has allowed three earned runs on five hits and a walk, striking out four. Much like the Blue Jays are relying primarily on Cecil, he relies primarily on his curveball. As a “feel” pitch, throwing the curveball as a go-to weapon is a difficult task in short bursts out of the bullpen.
There could be a little more of the waiting game here, but once Cecil’s curveball (and game) returns, the Jays bullpen will rise along with him. A lefty companion wouldn’t hurt, though.