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.
Some good news for the Nationals today: All-Star hurler Max Scherzer is due back from the injured list this week, this time (hopefully) for good. He’s slated to start during Thursday’s series finale against the Pirates.
It’s been a long road back for the right-hander, who earned his seventh consecutive All-Star designation after heading into the break with a 2.30 ERA, 5.6 fWAR, and a league-leading 7.56 SO/BB rate. An untimely back injury forced him to the injured list in the days leading up to the All-Star Game, however, and he hasn’t returned in any kind of part-time or full-time capacity since.
While Scherzer was originally expected to pitch for the Nationals sometime during their weekend series versus the Brewers, manager Dave Martinez elected to push back his return date by a few days. It’s not clear whether he felt some lingering pain during his 64-pitch simulated start on Saturday or whether the Nationals simply want to play it safe with their ace, but either way, the club apparently feels like Scherzer will be back to full strength before the end of the week.
If so, his return would be a significant asset to the Nationals, who could use a sub-3.00 ERA, 5.0-fWAR starter to help bolster their standing in the NL East. Still, there’s no guarantee that the veteran righty is ready to shoulder a full-time role in Washington’s rotation, nor is it certain that he’ll be able to match his results from the first half of the season. In one start between IL stints last month, he dealt five innings of three-run, two-walk, eight-strikeout ball in an 8-7 loss to the Rockies.