Cecil not discouraged by demotion
First-round Draft choice from '07 told his time could come soon
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Brett Cecil understands that there is a process to preparing a young pitcher for the big league stage. He hoped to grab one of the Blue Jays' rotation jobs this spring, but when the club informed him that he was not in the immediate plans, Cecil did not get discouraged.
So, as anticipated, Cecil departed Dunedin Stadium with instructions to continue working on his pitch location. Cecil also left knowing that Toronto believes the pitcher will be with the club this season, and maybe his stay with Triple-A Las Vegas won't be that long after all.
"They said I'm really close," Cecil said at the Jays' Minor League complex Tuesday. "They told me at some point I'll be helping them out this season and, hopefully, I'll only be in Vegas for three weeks or a month. That's what Brad said. Hopefully, I get up there real soon and can help out the team."
Until that time comes, Cecil will focus on what he learned while in camp with the Blue Jays. The 22-year-old wasn't awed by the veteran pitchers in the clubhouse, he picked up some new techniques while working with Arnsberg, and Cecil believes he began to gain the respect of ace Roy "Doc" Halladay, who can be an intimidating presence for young players.
Cecil spent the months leading up to Spring Training working out with Halladay in Florida, keeping a close eye on how the horse of Toronto's staff went about his business and picking his brain from time to time. At the beginning, Cecil said he would arrive to the park around 7 a.m. ET, but he quickly learned that showing up even earlier had its benefits.
"I got a massage one morning and Jesse Litsch came up," Cecil said. "He said, 'If you want that stuff, you've got to get here early. Go ask Doc, he'll tell you to get here at 6:30 in the morning.'"
Cecil listened to Litsch's advice and set his alarm a half-hour earlier, and he noticed a difference in how Halladay acted around him.
"It just felt like the presence that he had in the locker room then was better than it was before, when I was getting there a little bit later," Cecil said. "I think he respects a lot of the guys when they come in that early and get their work done early. That leaves time for the older guys later when it's their time."
For Cecil, as with any pitcher, the key to success is to repeat a sound delivery. Before he left camp, Arnsberg had the young southpaw watch how Halladay worked through a routine bullpen session, firing pitch after pitch with mechanical precision.
"I sat probably like five feet away from Doc and watched," Cecil said. "It's the same exact thing every single time. If he did something different, it was real small. He'd only miss by a little bit. Then, he went right back and got it straight and it was the same thing again.
"I think that's probably one of the best things I've watched in baseball, watching Doc throw a 'pen [session]. It's just a 'pen, but he's a machine."
Cecil, who went 8-5 with a 2.88 ERA and 129 strikeouts in 28 starts last season, will take little things he learned like that with him as he prepares to open this season in the Minor Leagues again.
Halladay has turned himself into one of the most durable pitchers in the game, making 200 innings in a season look easy. Cecil, who served as a closer at the University of Maryland before turning pro, has yet to log more than the 118 2/3 innings he turned in last year across three levels within the Blue Jays' farm system.
Ever since selecting Cecil with the 38th overall pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft and deciding to convert him into a starting pitcher, the Blue Jays have kept a close eye on the lefty's innings. Even this season, Cecil will face an innings limit somewhere around 150-170 due to the number of frames he had a year ago.
All of these factors have helped Cecil realize that breaking into the big league rotation will take time. Beyond that, he knows that the Jays don't want to put him in a position where he might be forced to bounce between Triple-A and the Majors.
"I think it's definitely a process," Cecil said. "Like Arnsberg said, he doesn't want me to be one of those guys that gets called up and sent back down because something is wrong, fix that, get called back up, then something else is wrong -- one of those guys.
"I have a lot of confidence in myself, but getting sent up and down like that can mess with anybody's head. I'm happy that they're not going to try to do that. If they don't think I'm ready now, then I'm not ready. I even know that I have stuff to work on."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.