Brett Cecil has made just one appearance since being named Toronto’s closer, but that was enough to convince the Blue Jays that he’s not the right man for the job.
Cecil has been stripped of ninth-inning duties after a blown save Thursday against the Yankees in which he retired just one of the four batters he faced while throwing in the high-80s. Cecil had an abbreviated spring training thanks to shoulder issues and manager John Gibbons told reporters that the left-hander “is not sharp.”
Cecil was one of the AL’s best relievers in 2013 and 2014, throwing a combined 114 innings with a 2.76 ERA and 146/50 K/BB ratio, but if he’s not fully healthy there’s no reason to keep trotting him out there in a high-leverage role. Gibbons declined to name a full-time closer replacement, but 20-year-old Miguel Castro may get the first crack at the job despite making the jump from Single-A to the majors.
The Astros and Nationals share a spring training facility, so it was only natural that they would open Grapefruit League play together. The Astros were the home team. Here’s the lineup they rolled out.
Teams typically include at least a few regulars in their spring training lineups as a courtesy to the fans, who are spending money to see big league players play baseball. This is especially the case for home games. However, the Astros have decided to roll out a lineup with a combined 323 MLB plate appearances.
There might be a reason for that. Houston was lustily booed as they took the field. This was after running a video on the scoreboard celebrating their 2019 AL championship.
That’s all with the team that beat them in the World Series (and is widely regarded as baseball’s current heroes for beating the big bad cheating Astros) in the other dugout, of course. Nationals starter Max Scherzer has not thrown at any Houston player, and the game is now in a rain delay. But it seems like the Astros decided to spare their players from some possible rough treatment, both from fans and opposing pitchers.
The same could not be said for Astros mascot Orbit, who was also booed.
One can quibble with the merits of booing a bunch of players who have barely touched the big leagues because you’re mad at Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman, but sports fandom is something of an irrational business. Fans are going to want their pound of flesh, especially when they paid for the right to be in the ballpark and give the Astros a piece of their mind. Some of them even brought props! This is just how it all works, unfortunately. If you’re in an Astros uniform, you’re probably going to get booed.
Welcome to the 2020 season, Astros. It’s probably going to be like this all year.