Orioles blank Jays

Baltimore Orioles J.J. Hardy, right, beats the tag by Toronto Blue Jays J.P. Arencibia to score in...

Baltimore Orioles J.J. Hardy, right, beats the tag by Toronto Blue Jays J.P. Arencibia to score in the sixth inning of their American League MLB baseball game in Toronto September 9, 2011. (REUTERS/Fred Thornhill)

KEN FIDLIN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:48 PM ET

TORONTO - If there is one thought to be distilled from the comings and goings on the Blue Jay pitching staff the past few weeks it is that management is not happy with the status quo.

When the Jays convened in Dunedin to start preparing for this season, one of the talking points was their starting pitching. With the possible exception of Ricky Romero, the reality has not lived up to the expectation.

Romero has tossed 200 innings with a 3.01 ERA. All the other starters combined have pitched 655 innings with an ERA of 5.14.

So, while these games heading down the stretch may bereft of relevance to the 2011 season, they have plenty of meaning going forward.

“What we have to do is find out the most we can about everybody on our club right now,” said manager John Farrell before Friday’s game against Baltimore.

“We need five starters and we need to improve and increase the total number of innings pitched by the rotation. I’m not just talking about an arbitrary number, but the quality of those innings, as well.”

Friday night the spotlight was squarely on Brett Cecil, who won 15 games a year ago but has pitched with enough inconsistency this year to earn himself a trip back to Triple A. Since his return at the end of June, he has pitched better but is, like every other pitcher, being scrutinized closely.

Friday night Cecil was cursed by a lack of offensive support in producing one of his better recent outings in a 2-0 loss. Over eight innings, he limited the Orioles to two runs (one earned run) on seven hits, a walk and nine strikeouts, certainly good enough to win on most nights.

Unfortunately, that was all Baltimore would need as the Jays could not get anything going against Baltimore veteran Jeremy Guthrie. Guthrie allowed three hits in shutting out Toronto over seven innings.

“Everything was what I wanted it to be,” said Cecil. “The result just wasn’t there.”

The only run they needed came on an RBI single by O’s DH Vlad Guerrero in the top of the sixth, after a botched double-play relay by second baseman Kelly Johnson allowed J.J. Hardy to move into scoring position.

The Jays were actually trying to pitch around Guerrero in that situation but he is such a notorious bad-ball hitter that even that is a difficult assignment.

“I’m scared to even intentionally walk him,” said Cecil. “He hit a great pitch ... curve ball, down. That’s just the type of hitter he is. Seems like you can never fool him.”

If Farrell was wearing his evaluator’s hat, then Cecil got high marks for this performance.

“His stuff was more crisp than his last three or four times out,” said Farrell. “He had good separation between his fastball and his changeup. He threw a lot of strikes and was pretty much in complete command of the game. He had swing and miss stuff tonight.”

In the top of the eighth, the Jays thought they had an inning-ending double play but Nick Markakis beat it out on a bang-bang play, with Ryan Adams scoring from second.

Edwin Encarnacion was removed from the game after he felt a twinge in his left shoulder making a swing in the seventh inning. His health will be evaluated today.

Farrell wasn’t necessarily centring out Cecil with his early comments about evaluating the staff.

“I wouldn’t highlight Brett as being any different than anyone else with our club,” said Farrell. “Every opportunity someone gets is one that they need to take advantage of.

“Among the number of things we’re trying to get accomplished in September, including winning as many games as possible, is the individual evaluation.”

Cecil has now pitched 111 innings in Toronto and another 79 in Las Vegas, which is an increase of 10 over last year’s work load. Farrell said Cecil will be monitored as the season progresses to make sure he doesn’t get overworked.

“That might give us an opportunity to spot-start someone later in the month,” said Farrell.

Farrell believes Cecil could benefit from a conditioning program this offseason.

“The one thing that will be most beneficial after this season is to see that he goes through a rigorous offseason training program that increases the overall core strength in hope to build on his stamina and strength,” said Farrell.

What this late-season evaluation of the pitchers means is that management is prepared to make whatever changes are necessary to field a more consistent rotation in 2012.

That could easily mean a trade for a proven starter or two or a free agent signing.

“You know Alex (Anthopoulos),” said Farrell. “Everybody is a possibility. Our goal is to assemble the best team possible. How we do that is always looked at.”


Videos

Photos