Cecil surprised to lead club in wins at break

Cecil surprised to lead club in wins at break

TORONTO -- Glancing around the clubhouse, Brett Cecil scanned the lockers of his rotation mates, running through a mental checklist. The Blue Jays pitcher was in disbelief that he was poised to be the team's first-half wins leader.

"I guess that's right," Cecil said. "That's great."

With eight victories, Cecil will head into the All-Star break with the most victories among any of Toronto's young starters. It is an unexpected development, considering the left-hander began the season with Triple-A Las Vegas -- not Toronto.

Cecil has come a long way since working as a rookie starter for the Jays a year ago, but don't count manager Cito Gaston among those surprised.

"He's pitched great for us, so I'm not surprised at all," Gaston said. "He's changed. He believes in himself a little bit more. When he's out on that mound, I think he thinks he can beat anyone -- that's going to help -- I think he knows that he can."

The development of a solid changeup has added another layer to Cecil's pitch arsenal, but the 24-year-old lefty cites his mental approach as the biggest difference this season. Beyond that, Cecil said working within a young rotation that includes Shaun Marcum, Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, Jesse Litsch and Marc Rzepczynski has helped.

"I'm having a blast, man. It's awesome," said Cecil, who is part of a starting staff that has an average age of just over 25 years old. "It's a lot better now being able to talk to guys that are really all around your age. ... We're all in this together and it's like one big ball of fire coming at you."

Cecil also brought up a topic that has been touched on by other players since the early stages of Spring Training. The lefty said that the Jays' clubhouse seems to be a bit looser without former ace Roy Halladay, who was traded to the Phillies in the offseason.

"I hate to bring up Doc in kind of a not-so-good way," Cecil said. "But with him here it was a little bit tighter, as far as the pitching staff goes. Now, we have the biggest goofball on the team, Marcum, as our ace, which is awesome. I think that's kind of what we needed.

"Last year, if you'd lose a tough game, everybody seemed to come in, sit at their locker, walk silently to go eat, stuff like that. I mean, you don't want to sit here and laugh and giggle after you lose a game, but obviously you need it to be a little loose.

"Losses are a part of this game. Failure is a huge part of this game. I just think you can't have that tightness and tension walking around the clubhouse. I think it's got to be really loose."

Gaston did not buy into the notion that Halladay hindered the clubhouse in any way.

"I just think all that is a little bit blown out [of proportion]," Gaston said. "Doc didn't bother anyone. He went out and did his thing and it's up to you to go out and do your thing. Go out and work as hard as he did and if you really want to do something, why don't you follow what he's doing? That's my feeling."