Scoreless relief outing encouraging for Cecil

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Brett Cecil bounced back from his worst outing of the spring by tossing 2 2/3 scoreless innings against the Yankees on Thursday afternoon.

Cecil entered the game needing a strong performance to help build his case for one of the final two spots in Toronto's bullpen.

The 26-year-old managed to do that by going to an impressive curveball and changeup while resisting the urge to rely on his fastball as much as previous outings.

"The curveball was working really well," said Cecil, who lowered his spring ERA to 6.30. "I was just a little bit late getting my hand out on the fastball and the curveball brings me right back to the arm slot where it should be at.

"The changeup was working well, too. They want me to start throwing my changeup a little bit more now that I have some of my velocity back. Starting to change speeds a little bit more rather than just fastball, cutter."

Cecil, who is out of options on his contract, remains in a heated competition for a job on the 25-man roster. He's in the mix with Aaron Loup, Jeremy Jeffress and Brad Lincoln, and to a lesser extent, J.A. Happ and Neil Wagner.

The Blue Jays view Cecil as a candidate for the long reliever's role, but he's also the type of pitcher who could be used in situational matchups as well.

Cecil auditioned for both of those roles vs. New York by replacing right-hander Esmil Rogers in the fifth and continuing on to record his longest outing of the spring.

The native of Maryland surrendered just one hit and one walk while striking out three. It was a positive step for a reliever, who has had several bumps in the road this spring.

"It has been frustrating, to say the least," Cecil said. "My last couple of outings before this, giving up the runs. I felt great every time going out, and I think that was the most frustrating part. Feeling good, throwing good pitches, but not good enough.

"It has just been frustrating juggling that part of it. But I'm just trying to keep it out of my head that it's a competition and just trying to get better every time out."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.