The left-handed Cecil was in the final year of a four-year, $30.5 million contract, but he has only pitched 100 innings across 113 games since signing the largest deal for a free-agent reliever in franchise history. In 2017, he pitched in a career-high 73 games with a 3.88 ERA. In '18, Cecil pitched in just 40 games with a 6.89 ERA and had two stints on the injured list (left shoulder strain and right foot inflammation). In '19, he showed up to Spring Training having lost 60 pounds and determined to make it a comeback year. The weight loss, though, threw off his delivery and delayed his debut in Spring Training games. Then, carpel tunnel syndrome was discovered; Cecil had surgery and missed all of last season.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Brett Cecil,” said Cardinals manager Mike Shildt. “What you would hope for a guy that’s been dedicated. With the number of setbacks that he’s had, you hope to see a reward take place at the end of that. And it just didn’t happen, not here. But I can tell you, man, Brett is a consummate pro. I saw him grow, I saw him challenge himself. I saw him continue to pick himself up after multiple setbacks. I saw him look to compete at every turn.
“It’s clearly disappointing, but I know he can walk with his head up and know he ran the race and did everything he possibly could to give himself an opportunity to help us.”
The 34-year-old showed up to Spring Training healthy and ready to compete for a bullpen spot. He was throwing reasonably well in the high 80s, but he strained his right hamstring shortly before baseball shut down on March 12 due to the coronavirus pandemic. After rehabbing the ailment, Cecil showed up to Summer Camp healthy and throwing sidearm. The new delivery gave him some deception, which he believed would make him more “competitive,” he said early on in camp.
However, Cecil’s velocity dropped even more than it had in the spring, barely getting over 80 mph in any of his intrasquad outings or live batting practice sessions. He was slated to throw in Tuesday’s intrasquad before it was canceled due to rain. By taking Cecil off the 40-man roster, a spot was created as the Cardinals begin to pare their roster down to 30 players ahead of Opening Day.
Miller, meanwhile, has been sidelined most of Summer Camp with ankle/heel discomfort. Bursitis occurs when the small fluid-filled sacs that cushion the bones, tendons and muscles near the joints become inflamed. He has been hitting and fielding some, and he ran the bases before Wednesday’s exhibition.
Shildt said that Miller was going to get live batting practice in against reliever Giovanny Gallegos during Thursday’s optional workout and that Miller would likely open the season getting live at-bats in at the Cardinals’ alternate training site in Springfield, Mo.
Wong scratched with neck stiffness
Second baseman Kolten Wong was scratched from Wednesday’s lineup with neck stiffness after sliding into second base during Tuesday’s intrasquad game. Wong woke up Wednesday still with some stiffness, so the Cardinals didn’t want to push him, Shildt said. The manager doesn’t expect that this will impact Wong’s availability for Opening Day on Friday.
Matheny returns to Busch
Royals manager Mike Matheny walked through the Busch Stadium visiting clubhouse for the first time on Wednesday after spending seven years managing from the home dugout. He said he looked through the Cardinals' roster when he got to St. Louis and realized how many relationships he still has with those players. Matheny’s 591 managerial wins rank fifth in Cards history, as he posted winning records each year with St. Louis. He also led the club to the postseason in each of his first four seasons, becoming the first manager in MLB history to accomplish that feat.
Matheny has said that he didn't put a ton of thought into his return. Even though his time in St. Louis ended with a midseason dismissal and being replaced by Shildt, he appreciates his time with the Cardinals -- both as a player and manager.
“You don’t forget the people and you don’t forget the memories," Matheny said. “You learn from them, you become better for all of those, and now you move on and try to do the same thing, if not more and better where you’re going next.”
Jack Flaherty will make his first Opening Day start on Friday against the Pirates at Busch Stadium, looking to continue the success he found as the Cardinals' ace in 2019. Flaherty will be opposed by Pittsburgh righty Joe Musgrove, who will also start his first Opening Day now that he's emerging as a leader on and off the field for the Bucs. First pitch is set for 7:15 p.m. CT, live on Fox Sports Midwest and MLB.TV.