February 19, 2012
Cecil ready for big rebound
By Ken Fidlin, QMI Agency
When last we heard from Brett Cecil in a Blue Jays uniform, he was in an all-too-familiar state of mental disarray. He was disgusted.
The occasion was the aftermath of his final start of the 2011 season, an ugly 31/3 innings in a 5-2 September 26 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays just down the road from here in St. Petersburg.
He had given up five hits — three of them home runs — walked a couple and was responsible for four of the Tampa runs. The game put a fitting punctuation point on a frustrating season for Cecil, who went 0-7 with a 5.16 ERA in his final 10 starts.
Cecil had won 15 games in 2010 and seemed ready at the dawn of 2011 to become a fixture in the Jays rotation. From the outset, however, he battled velocity and command problems in the spring and then struggled badly enough during the season to earn a two-month timeout in Las Vegas.
“I’m sure as hell glad it’s over,” said Cecil that day in St. Pete’s. “This season is going to be a big motivational thing for me in the off-season. I’m going to work my ass off, work harder than I’ve ever worked before.”
Athletes often blurt out things in the heat of the moment that they have little intention to follow through on. This was not one of those times.
“I was really angry last year,” said Cecil this weekend after a workout at the Jays spring training facility.
“I think everybody could tell that. I meant what I said in that last interview. I can truly say that I’ve done that. I’ve prepared myself as best I could and I’m continuing to do that. At the end of the day if I have a bad game, it’s not going to affect me as much as last year because I know I’ve done what I need to do to win a lot of games, pitch well for the team and help save the great bullpen that we have.”
Some of that work is immediately obvious. Through diet and exercise, Cecil is 22 pounds lighter than he was at the end of the season. With guidance from Blue Jays assistant trainer Hap Hudson, Cecil altered his eating habits during the off-season with impressive results.
“I’m still eating the same things, but less of it at a time,” said Cecil. “As Hap puts it, it’s more grazing throughout the day so you’re not eating three huge meals and getting really, really full. It’s just a matter of staying on an even plane as far as eating goes.”
Cecil didn’t just ditch the flab but added muscle as well. A hopeful sign that Cecil, at 25, may be on the road to a new level of maturity is the intent with which he approached his off-season regimen.
“My workouts have been a lot more intense,” he said. “For me, I guess the biggest change is that there’s been more of a purpose to everything I’m doing. It’s not a matter of doing things just to get them done, it’s to do them because they’re going to help in some way on the field.
“From that standpoint it has helped me get my body more prepared — legs, core, upper body — to be a better pitcher.”
Cecil isn’t pretending that by being slimmer and in better shape he’ll automatically be a better pitcher, just that it gives him a better base from which to attempt to make his pitches.
“They’ve told me not to focus on the weight that I lose but more on being in better shape. It’s a matter of turning the bad weight into good weight. As a result, my body, my arm, my mechanics all feel a lot better. Even better than in 2010.
“I don’t know that (the weight loss) will have much of an effect on my pitching. What’s important is just being healthy and realizing that I’m maybe a little more agile and might have more stamina with a healthier lifestyle.”
And, for a guy who doesn’t want to live through another angry season, that’s at least a foundation for success.