Breaking: Brett Cecil Is Back

The Toronto Blue Jays have recalled Brett Cecil from Triple A just before his expected start tonight for Las Vegas. He will now be scheduled for Thursday’s series finale against the Pittsburgh Pirates. In order to make room for him, the Zach Stewart experiment will be put on hold, as he goes back to New Hampshire after giving up a batting title worth of hits to the Detroit Tigers last night.

According to Shi Davidi of Rogers Sportsnet, Carlos Villanueva, who was originally scheduled to start on Thursday will now be pushed back to Saturday, for the all important matinee against Roy Halladay and the Philadelphia Phillies. The move is at least in part a means of limiting Villanueva’s innings which have been racking up since the right hander made the transition from the bullpen to the starting rotation.

In twelve starts at Triple A, Cecil went 8-2 despite a 5.26 ERA and 4.99 FIP, such is life in the Pacific Coast League I suppose. However, more importantly, the pitcher regained the velocity that he had appeared to have lost during the early going of his 2011 campaign. In four starts at the Major League level, Cecil’s four seam fastball had an average velocity of 88.8 mph. Last season, that same pitch averaged 90.5 mph.

Looking at the speed chart from his last outing before being sent down, my guess is that the loss of velocity had more to do with conditioning than anything else, as the trend is pretty obvious before the last few pitches of his start.


If we learned anything of Stewart during his brief time in the Majors, it’s that, for better or worse, he isn’t afraid to pitch to contact. Opposing batters made contact on 94% of all the pitches they swung at from Stewart, the highest rate on the team. Of the 75 batters he faced in total, 26 got hits.

Comments (34)

  1. The Sicilian! Thank god he gets his first start against the Pirates. Is anyone else a little concerned that JoJo Reyes might end up making the most starts for the 2011 Blue Jays?

  2. Since when do you care about hits? Stewart has pitched quite well in 2 of his 3 starts. Curious move, no?

  3. Stewart pitched fine for the Jays in his time up here, so it’s unfortunate that it had to come at the expense of him. I assume he’ll be back when/if the Jays succeed in trading JoJo/Villanueva away.

    Cecil should have been back a long time ago, though. He still remains the organization’s 3rd best starter and should be given the chance to prove himself after his good 2010.

  4. @Fullmer – A long time ago ? He has a 5.26 ERA in 12 starts in AAA

  5. @beaster – The Pacific Coast League is a hitters league..those numbers don’t reflect how well Cecil had been pitching in AAA….Stewart had 2 good starts, but now he can go back down to AA and work on the things he needs to…hes given up too many hits in each of his starts..hes lucky he didnt give up more runs…he will be back by the end of the season im sure and he wil be a solid 4-5 starter for us in the future.but im very glad Cecil is back

  6. Put me in the camp where I didn’t think Stewart pitched that bad to get demoted. But I suppose that the Jays thought that Cecil had done enough to come back. I wouldn’t say Cecil has been back for long time either. He’s had a string of 3-4 good starts in AAA. However, I’m not really worried about his ERA being 5.26. It’s the PCL!!!!!

  7. Pitching in the PCL makes stats difficult to compare.

    As long as his velocity is back and his conditioning better, I’ve got nothing against him coming back to the rotation. Stewart was okay, but there’s still a lot to work on. Would really like to see him develop a pitch that doesn’t get put into play at least a quarter of the time he throws it.

  8. Yes, a long time ago. His poor ERA (in addition to being a poor evaluating indicator to begin with) is largely due to the fact that he allowed 10 earned runs in 4 innings in his first start there. If you remove that start, his ERA over his time there would be 4.35.

    If you think thats bad in the PCL, I don’t know what to tell you. There are only 8 qualified starters in that entire league with an ERA under 4.00 (Brad Mills, the league leader at 3.72, is one of them), and most of them don’t have peripherals as good as Cecil (63 K/24 BB).

    You could make an argument that Cecil is this organization’s third best starter, still.

  9. I thought that I had read somewhere that the thought behind Cecil’s velocity issues was that he hadn’t worked as much in the off-season as he had in the past, mostly because he was spending (perhaps too much) time with his newborn son.

    Maybe that’s conjecture entirely.

    Anyway, glad to see him back.

    @ beaster – Cecil’s really only had one “bad” game in his last 10 starts, where he gave up 8 ER to Fresno.

  10. That would make total sense to me, and the velocity chart supports it.

  11. This totally messes up my schedule of who I’m seeing over the next couple weeks! It was going to be Ricky, Jo-Jo and Villanueva. Now I don’t know who I’ll see in Cleveland. Or on Sunday, now that I think about it.

  12. Don’t think I quite agree with you about Stewart, Parkes. He’s nearly 25 and pretty finished in his development. He’s not going to suddenly develop a great strikeout pitch by sending him down to AA again (a level that he’s been at and suceeded at for nearly two years using the stuff he already has). The fact that he’s likely going to be a pitch-to-contact guy in the majors doesn’t mean he isn’t ready. If he can keep the ball on the ground like he has in his first three starts (47.5 GB%) and throw consistent strikes, pitching to contact isn’t a bad thing at all.

  13. Scattering of SP thoughts:

    - Cecil was the guy I was least worried about coming into this season, and yet I’m pretty underwhelmed by the news of his return. Hopefully he’s back for good.

    - Wilner said yesterday that Jo-Jo Reyes has been good lately. He’s got a 4.81 ERA in his last 4 starts and 4.71 in his last 6 starts (averaging 6 IP). See ya later, Zach Stewart.

    - Shi Davidi said they are monitoring Villanueva’s innings. Does this mean they see him as a long-term option for the rotation?

    - Davidi was also the first of the 5 million Toronto baseball reporters to get the full news out of the Cecil/Stewart move, as well as Carlos starting Saturday. Not that it matters, but I thought it was funny watching them all come in later with the news.

  14. So… next offseason better conditioning for Cecil/

  15. what does mills have to do to get his shot this year?

  16. All of that isn’t to say that Stewart can’t improve his strike up rate once he gets more experience. But the guy has a lower K rate in the minors as a starter than Jesse Litsch, he is what he is. His current skills (good command, control and GB ability) can play in the majors.

  17. “Wilner said yesterday that Jo-Jo Reyes has been good lately. He’s got a 4.81 ERA in his last 4 starts and 4.71 in his last 6 starts (averaging 6 IP).”

    Wilner is often wrong. Reyes has been very mediocre recently and likely will continue to be mediocre if they keep starting him. I’m still holding out hope the Jays intend to trade him because he’s certainly no long-term rotation guy.

  18. He basically threw two pitches his entire time in Toronto. He has a changeup apparently. He needs to develop that for a chance to succeed as a starter. I’d say he showed good control, but not command in his brief time up.

    As for Davidi being first to the news, it’s almost as though he works for the company that owns the team. Any teleconference I’ve been on, he’s always first to get a question too.

  19. If he hasn’t developed a good third pitch by now in his development, it’s likely not coming. The skills he has already could make him a decent enough starter (think Jesse Litsch), but I do wonder whether the Jays will try to turn him back into a reliever.

  20. I cant wait till they dfa reyes or move him to the bullpen. Reyes just plain sucks and i have a feeling the only reason he’s still here is because of that idiot farrell. Personally, I’d keep stewart and move reyes out out of the rotation and put cecil in for villanueva. I actually think villanueva is a good pitcher thats similiar to marcum but throws a little harder and doesnt have the great change up. Hes a great arm to have in the bullpen. No reason to trade him away.

  21. this is a little surprising. i didnt see yesterdays game but from the boxscore it looked like stewart pitched ok and i heard that a few of the hits against him were pretty flimsy.

    his lack of strikeouts is not particularly worrisome for me. obviously its the best way to get batters out, but if the trade-off for less strikeouts is fewer walks, lower pitch counts and more innings then i dont have a problem with it. i think stewart has things he needs to work on, but i didnt see him struggling enough to tell me that he would be better served working out the kinks in AA.

    and its a bit strange to complain about no strikeouts when the guy they called up is hardly a strikeout artist. dont get me wrong i like cecil, but couldnt his call-up have been at the expense of villanueva or jojo who have no future with this team.

  22. I don’t understand why everyone is so surprised that Stewart is the one to get sent down. He wasn’t called up because he was lighting up AA; he was the next best option when Cecil and Drabek were sent down. Cecil is back so Stewart gets sent back down. Also, everyone seems to forget that Jojo has no options. He can’t get sent down without clearing waivers and it seems painfully obvious that Anthopolous isn’t going to do that, despite Reyes proving to be a pretty low value guy.

  23. Stewart wasn’t missing any bats in his brief stint. It was great that he gets tons of groundballs, but that may play as a Litsch-type 5th starter, but hopefully in the next few years we’ll see his true potential.

    On the ESPN podcast Keith Law was much bigger on Stewart’s ceiling last week than Romero’s. He is of course much higher on Drabek, but he did mention Stewart as having a ceiling of being a 1 or a 2 (I could’ve misremembered this). He talked about Romero being a great number 2 or 3 at best! (I totally disagree there, but I am a big Romero fan).

  24. How are people still underestimating Romero’s “ceiling”? A lot of “upside” pitchers will never touch what he’s doing this year. It’s not about what he could be, it’s about what he IS.

    I wrote about Reyes’ mediocrity yesterday…he’s nothing special, though at the end of the day Mills is a very similar type of pitcher to Reyes (although it’s a little ridiculous how they’re completely refusing to give him a shot). At this point I doubt that Reyes is eventually going to shift to the pen, he’s just someone they feel can occupy a rotation slot for the year while the more talented pitchers struggle. Bruce Chen, but a decade younger.

    Yesterday’s was the only Stewart start I saw in his stint, but colour me unimpressed. Admittedly, the Tigers have some good hitters, but they were smacking low fastballs all over the yard and he was lucky to get out of it with only 2 runs allowed. He gave up more than a hit per inning in AA and that’s exactly what I saw last night.

    Oh, right…Cecil. We’ll see how it goes, but the fact that Brad Mills pitched so much better than him in AAA doesn’t inspire confidence.

  25. @dougiejays i totally agree that Keith Law is underestimating Romero’s ceiling. Given his past year and a half, he is definitely better than a number 3. He is a number 1 on most teams in MLB. He isn’t a Roy Halladay-type “ace”, but he is pretty damn good. I think Law is still bitter about Riccardi vetoing everyone in the draft room and taking Romero over Tulowitzki.

  26. I don’t think this will be a good move for the Jays because Brett Cecil hasn’t shown he is ready. If his ERA is in the 5.00 range then how bad could it be if he comes to the majors? Besides the ballpark the hitters are vastly inferior than at the major leagues. I just hope he discovered his fastball velocity because he doesn’t have the command of a guy that pitches at 88-90.

  27. You’re telling me that Keith Law said Ricky Romero’s ceiling was a “2-3″ last week? Or do you mean a few years ago?

    You could easily make the argument that Ricky Romero is a top 20 pitcher in baseball right now. Perhaps better than that.

  28. Per Baseball-Reference, Romero’s been worth 3.4 WAR… in 16 starts. Assuming he’ll reach 32 starts again this year, that’s a 6.8 WAR season, which is ridiculous.

    For reference, he was worth 3.2 WAR over all of last year. Wow.

  29. I am pretty sure he (KLaw) said that last week on the podcast. I may be misremembering, but I thought that’s what he said. He definitely said Drabek and Stewart have higher ceilings than current Romero. He also said Romero isn’t even close to being the best lefty in the AL and then rattled off Lester, Price and Matusz as three, in his opinion, better lefties just in the AL East.

  30. ^Oh he also named CC sabathia as better lefty than Romero. So he would take 4 other lefties from just the AL East over Romero

  31. Romero is 27th in xFIP out of all starting pitchers (both leagues). 9th in AL.

  32. @ Theo

    You do know that B-R WAR uses runs allowed in its calculations? ridiculous.

    He has 1.8 fWAR, nothing crazy, about as good as last year. HR/FB% should come down a bit, so he should end up with 4~5 WAR.

  33. I know he gets a lot of love, but what has Matusz ever done? That’s like calling Wieters a better catcher than McCann because he’s younger.

  34. If he said that last week and cited Matusz as being better (and Drabek/Stewart as higher ceilings), it really can’t be justified at all. Just let the hater hate.

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