I’m certainly not suggesting that Brett Cecil is on the path towards developing a wipeout splitter, but in a strange twist, the former high-bonus 38th overall pick is following the career path of his new teammate: eight-year minor league veteran turned metal-elbowed Major League success, Steve Delabar.
Ken Fidlin of the Toronto Sun does some outstanding work in presenting the story, which explains that this off-season Cecil has been working with trainer James Evans, who developed the program that reinvigorated Delabar’s career, following what might have been a career-ending injury in 2009, largely by adding a few ticks to his fastball.
Years before, Evans had recognized that baseball pitchers and tennis players share nearly identical mechanics. The throwing motion in baseball is virtually the same one that tennis players use to serve. So, Evans wondered, why do baseball pitchers suffer devastating arm injuries that tennis players largely are able to avoid?
The main difference is that tennis players obviously don’t release their rackets in the way that baseball players release the baseball. The tennis motion ends in a smooth follow-through. Evans then started having pitchers work with weighted balls, holding on to the ball all the way through the motion, to strengthen the muscles at the back of the shoulder.
The “unintended by-product” of this, Fidlin explains, is improved velocity– something Cecil, who is out of options and trying to make the club as a bullpen lefty, can certainly use.
You may recall that Cecil’s radar readings were a story throughout camp last year, as the would-be starter struggled to throw as hard as the club needed to, and even had a start shielded from the media in the midst of a disastrous, demotion-earning spring. If he really can find some extra velocity through this program, in addition to whatever he may be able to add by working exclusively from the bullpen, the Jays may actually have something here. Though maybe they do anyway, with Cecil having held lefties to a .256 wOBA, a 2.45 ERA and 3.03 FIP over his last three seasons in the Majors.
At the very least, it’s all a nifty take on the “best shape of his life” kind of columns that we’re sure to be inundated with any moment now. And there’s actually something about that in Fidlin’s piece, too!
The whole thing is definitely worth reading. I won’t be holding my breath, personally, but Cecil sure sounds excited for camp.