Cecil's struggles resurface in loss to Rays

Left-hander finishes month of April with 0-5 record

May 1st, 2016

ST. PETERSBURG -- Everything seemed to go right for left-hander Brett Cecil in 2015. This year, it seems like everything possible has gone wrong.

Cecil dropped to 0-5 in the month of April after he surrendered a walk-off single to Tampa Bay's Curt Casali in Toronto's 4-3 loss on Saturday night. Cecil surrendered hits to all three batters he faced as the Blue Jays lost for the fourth time in five games.

The veteran left-hander didn't allow a single earned run after June 21 last year. This month alone he has surrendered seven runs -- six earned -- but Cecil insists he feels great on the mound and doesn't plan on paying much attention to his bad breaks.

"As long as I'm feeling good, what are you going to do?" said Cecil, who has a 5.79 ERA in 9 1/3 innings. "I'm throwing the ball well, I'm not going to sit at my locker and pout about it. Relievers need to have short memories and for some of the guys, it's the hardest thing. It is hard, but I have a short memory."

Cecil's issues in the ninth vs. Tampa Bay actually began on defense. Pinch-hitter Brad Miller led off the frame with a weak grounder to first base. Justin Smoak fielded the ball cleanly, but Cecil was late getting to the bag and Smoak was slow getting his foot on the base.

The apparent miscommunication led to a leadoff single, and in the very next at-bat, Kevin Kiermaier hit a double over the head of Jose Bautista in right field. Bautista took a step in and then got twisted around on the play, but in the mind of manager John Gibbons, it would have been a double either way.

Casali then put the game on ice with a sharp single to left. There's a chance it all could have been avoided if either Smoak or Cecil made the play at first to open the inning, but Cecil doesn't intend on making changes any time soon that would have led to a better fielding position.

"He's a quick runner, he obviously beat it out," Cecil said. "As much as I fall off to the third-base side, it's tough for me to get over there. I have to be able to make my pitches and I can't change my mechanics to once in a while get over to first base. I have to stay with what works and hopefully more times than not we get him."

Toronto doesn't really have any choice but to let Cecil work through these issues on the mound. The club doesn't have another left-handed reliever in the bullpen and there is no one in the Minor Leagues waiting to seize his high-leverage role.

Gibbons could opt to use right-handers Jesse Chavez and Gavin Floyd more often, but each reliever also has struggled at times this year and they seem better utilized in their current roles in front of Cecil. Outside of closer Roberto Osuna, the Blue Jays have been missing that lockdown reliever.

Earlier this year, Gibbons admitted the Blue Jays would be in a lot of trouble if Cecil didn't come through with a strong season. That was the stance then and it remains the stance now. Bad luck or not, he needs to turn things around for this team to have a realistic chance at contention.

"You feel great, you're throwing the [heck] out of the ball and you're still getting these results," a frustrated Cecil said. "I'm touching mid-90s for a left-hander and the hits just keep coming."