Cecil gone, long live Carreno

Joel Carreno (right) will replace Brett Cecil in the Blue Jays' starting rotation to start the...

Joel Carreno (right) will replace Brett Cecil in the Blue Jays' starting rotation to start the season. (MIKE CASSESE/Reuters file photo)

BOB ELLIOTT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:29 PM ET

OK, raise your right arm if you had Joel Carreno as third man out of the chute in the Blue Jays starting rotation to open the 2012 season?

And no crossing your fingers behind your back with your left hand.

Carreno, 25, will make his first major-league start Sunday afternoon in Cleveland after the Jays decided Tuesday they’d seen enough of lefty Brett Cecil.

This is not a repeat of 2001 when general manager Gord Ash and manager Buck Martinez sent Roy Halladay to class-A Dunedin to find himself. Cecil, a 15-game winner in 2009, has lacked velocity and Monday’s Mo-Town hit parade by the Detroit Tigers, where the hits kept on coming, eight in a row without a commercial interruption, was the final straw.

Not a good start to accomplishing manager John Farrell’s No. 1 goal: more quality innings by his starters.

Now, the Jays will go with Ricky Romero on opening day, Brandon Morrow, Carreno, Henderson Alvarez and Kyle Drabek.

When I left Florida 10 days ago scouts were not impressed with Cecil, but we thought maybe the Jays would drop him two spots to fifth in the rotation.

Instead, the Jays dropped him two rungs on the organizational ladder to double-A New Hampshire.

The Jays reasoned Cecil pitching at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium in Manchester, N.H., was a better option than triple-A Las Vegas and not because of his teeth. Cecil had success with pitching coach Tom Signore before.

New England would hasten a return quicker than Las Vegas and pitching at Cashman Field with its multiple jet streams under pitching coach Bob Stanley in his first year with the organization.

Ah, is it any wonder why the Jays discussed starting pitchers throughout the off-season: at the general managers’ meetings in Milwaukee, the winter meetings in Dallas and most every phone call GM Alex Anthopoulos made, either to his scouts or other clubs?

The Jays attempted to acquire one of right-hander Mat Latos from the San Diego Padres, Seattle Mariners’ Michael Pineda or Oakland A’s lefty Gio Gonzalez in their search for either a No. 2 or No. 3 starter.

• Gonzalez won more than 15 games for a second-straight year, logging more than 200 innings as he did in 2010.

The A’s sent Gonzalez, along with minor-leaguer Robert Gilliam to the Washington Nationals for prospects A.J. Cole, Derek Norris, Tom Milone and Brad Peacock two days before Christmas.

Pitching at the spacious O.co Coliseum, which Comcast’s Ray Ratto says the A’s named after their offence, Gonzalez was 31-21 over the previous two seasons with a 3.17 ERA. He combined to walk 183 hitters and strike out 368 in 402 2/3 innings.

Gonzalez led the AL in walks in 2010 and was one free pass behind the leader, C.J. Wilson the year before.

“He is pitching in a great park to pitch in, other than the Texas Rangers what team in his division did he have to worry about?” said another scout. “I don’t think he would have been a good fit for the AL East, especially pitching at Yankee Stadium or Fenway where umps don’t call third strikes against the home team.”

• Pineda, signed by Bob Engle, the former Jays scouting director, made 28 starts for the M’s last season as an impressive rookie.

Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik and scouting director Tom McNamara would move Pineda to the Jays, but wanted third baseman Brett Lawrie, plus another prospect.

Zduriencik was scouting director of the Brewers when Milwaukee selected the Langley, B.C. native in the first round in 2008, while McNamara saw Lawrie’s legendary doubleheader against a rookie-class Dominican League team when he hit five homers.

“From what I hear,” said one executive, “they didn’t even discuss the ‘plus’ part of the deal. Toronto said no at Lawrie. I would have done the same.”

The M’s dealt Pineda and minor-leaguer Jose Campos to the Yankees for slugging DH Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi, who appeared in 30 games for the Yanks last season.

• Latos is a power arm with a combined 374 strikeouts in 379 innings over the previous two seasons, going 23-24 with a 3.79 ERA.

In 2010 the Padres moved first baseman Adrien Gonzalez to the Red Sox for prospects. The Padres wanted major-league ready players for Latos and got it from the Cincinnati Reds on Dec. 17.

Edinson Volquez is now San Diego’s best starter, while Reds former No. 1 pick, first baseman Yonder Alonso, came over in the deal along with former first rounders Brad Boxberger and Yasmani Grandal.

“Not sure how Toronto could have bettered the Reds’ offer when it came to putting major leaguers in the deal,” said a NL scout. “They have few to spare. Not if you want to talk minor leaguers? They’ve got a ton coming ... and fast. They’ve done a real great job of a) adding scouts and b) the scouts have been diligent. They have more athletic kids than we do.”

So no Pineda, no Gonzalez, no Latos and we understand why. And now no Cecil.

Fear not.

Nary a worry for Carreno is here ... or soon will be after his first major-league start in Cleveland.

Carreno had three starts for Vegas at minor-league camp on Mar. 18, 23 and 28, working five innings and throwing 72 pitches in his final outing. Three starts is not the same plan pitching coach Bruce Walton mapped out for Romero, Morrow and Alvarez.

Yet, that’s the situation the Jays find themselves in. As Dennis Lamp used to ask: “Who’s pitching Sunday?”

Carreno and the cast.


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