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Brett Cecil, Luiz Gohara have lost tons of weight

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Early spring training dispatches spend a lot of time on players’ weights. Makes sense, as one of the first things players do when they report to camp is to step on a scale. Most of the time that scale-stepping is not notable. These are athletes and most of them work out all winter, know their weight to a tenth of a pound and don’t make a point to tell anyone about their weigh-in.

It’s a bit different for some guys, though. Especially bigger fellas who are coming off disappointing years. If and when they come back to camp having cut a bunch of weight, you can bet that we’ll hear about it. It’s not quite a Best Shape of His Life situation, but it serves the same purpose: to send out an early signal that things are going to be better and different this year.

We have two such dispatches today:

Cecil, who is entering the third year of a $30.5 million, four-year contract, is coming off of a terrible season in which he posted a 6.89 ERA, and walked more guys than he struck out in 32.2 innings. His season was interrupted by shoulder and foot injuries, though it’s not entirely clear that they were directly conditioning-related. A bigger issue was probably the great deal of personal setbacks he experienced : his wife lost her father and, before that, her mother was on life-support for a while. He even had to put his dog down last year which, man, that’s terrible too. I can imagine it was hard to concentrate with all of that. Obviously the conditioning improvement will help, but just having a calmer personal life will likely help too.

Gohara’s had a similar mix of tragedy and injury. His father died last offseason which, yeah. He also hurt his ankle and, obviously, wasn’t in great shape. He’s an immensely talented young guy — and as that interview with Braves’ GM Alex Anthopoulos I talked about yesterday revealed, the Braves are putting a lot of pressure on him to step up this year — so coming into camp in shape is a good sign. And really, his personal situation is obviously better this winter than last.

Anyway: now that everyone is done getting weighed, they can start throwing baseballs.

Blue Jays release John Axford

John Axford
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The Blue Jays have released right-handed reliever John Axford from his minor league contract, per an announcement on Saturday. Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi speculates that the move could provide an avenue for the club to rework Axford’s contract, but the Blue Jays have yet to confirm or deny the report.

Axford, 35, was dealt a blow on Thursday after getting diagnosed with a stress reaction in the olecranon bone of his right elbow. Elbow soreness dogged the right-hander through much of his time in camp, and although he was scheduled for a follow-up examination later this spring, a definite return date had not been established.

Prior to the diagnosis, Axford was tabbed for a setup role with the team in 2019. He pitched to mixed results in 2018 (thanks in part to a late-season fracture of his right fibula) with a 5.27 ERA, 4.9 BB/9, and 9.8 SO/9 through 54 2/3 innings with the Blue Jays and Dodgers. Now, however, it’s not certain that he’ll return to the mound this season in any capacity.

Axford isn’t the only reliever the Blue Jays have lost to injury lately, either, as right-handers Ryan Tepera and Bud Norris have been sidelined with right elbow inflammation and forearm fatigue, respectively. Per Davidi, the Blue Jays offered Norris a $100,000 retention bonus to prevent him from opting out of the minor league contract he signed in February.