Cecil out as closer; club goes with committee
Osuna among leading candidates for 9th-inning role
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Blue Jays officially removed left-hander Brett Cecil from the closer's role on Tuesday afternoon and decided to give some opportunities to a group that includes Roberto Osuna and Steve Delabar.
Toronto manager John Gibbons remained somewhat vague in his approach to the ninth inning, but it appears as though the club will at least temporarily go with a closer by committee. The reliever who gets used likely will be based on matchups and the opposing hitters due up in the order.
Cecil entered play on Tuesday having allowed eight runs over his previous 2 1/3 innings. This marks the second time this season Cecil has been removed from the closer's role; it also happened during the first week of the year when the club temporarily went with rookie Miguel Castro.
"We're going to back Cecil out of that closer's role, and hopefully we can get him back on track," Gibbons said prior to Tuesday night's game against the Rays.
Based on the numbers, Osuna would be the logical candidate to replace Cecil, but the decision is not that simple. The 20-year-old easily has been the Blue Jays' top reliever, and his presence in a setup role has been invaluable during the middle innings.
That's one reason why Toronto would be hesitant to limit Osuna's availability to the ninth inning. If the heart of the order is due up in the seventh or eighth inning for the opposing team, that likely would force Gibbons to use Osuna earlier than a traditional closer.
Osuna entered the year having never pitched above Class A, but he's performed better than anyone could have expected under the bright lights. The native of Mexico is 1-2 with a 2.12 ERA while striking out 40 and walking 10 in 34 innings this season.
The Blue Jays remain in the market for a proven closer, but until that happens, Osuna likely will get his fair share of opportunities in the ninth. There's often more pressure associated with the final inning, but Osuna says the key will be not changing the approach that has led to so much success this year.
"I'm going to try to do my job in any situation, ninth, eighth, seventh innings," Osuna said. "I have to do my job anyways. If I get the ninth, eighth, it doesn't matter. I'm just going to try to do the best I can. I try not to think too much about being the closer or setup guy. I'm just going to try to do my job."