Last year, Brett Cecil often spoke like a man in denial.
“I feel great about the outing,” he said, after one spring-training start in 2012 when he was smacked around by the Detroit Tigers for nine runs on 11 hits. “I feel great about where I am right now and I’m looking forward to getting the season started, finally.”
The act was unconvincing. Cecil was in trouble and it was clear his already precarious grip on a job in the Blue Jays’ starting rotation was quickly slipping away.
The next morning, to no one’s surprise, Cecil was cut from the big-league club and shipped to Double-A New Hampshire.
The 26-year-old lefty eventually returned to the Jays midseason when the rotation was decimated by injury, but his career appeared to be sputtering to an inauspicious end.
His fastball faded, command erratic and confidence at an all-time low, the former first-round pick and 15-game winner seemed relegated to the major-league scrap heap.
Then he found new life.
Converted to the bullpen last September, Cecil is enjoying a career rejuvenation as a reliever.
Amid the Jays’ early-season disappointment, the bespectacled southpaw is one of the few who have achieved beyond expectations.
His career as a reliever is still young, but through the season’s first quarter he has been among manager John Gibbons most reliable bullpen arms, logging the second-most innings — behind only Steve Delabar — while posting a stellar 2.45 ERA.