Blue Jays reliever Cecil has impressed Gibbons

Blue Jays reliever Cecil has impressed Gibbons

BALTIMORE -- Left-hander Brett Cecil has become one of the biggest surprises for the Blue Jays through the first few weeks of the season.

Cecil was singled out by manager John Gibbons on Wednesday morning as being the player who has exceeded expectations during the early going.

The 26-year-old Cecil had to compete for a job during Spring Training, but so far has been one of the more effective relievers in the league by allowing just two earned runs in 11 1/3 innings entering Wednesday.

"The one guy that really jumps out at you is Cecil," Gibbons said. "From not even guaranteed a spot in Spring Training to being the long guy, that was basically his role."

Most of the credit to Cecil's strong start has been attributed to his increased velocity. Last year, Cecil averaged just 89 mph on his fastball according to Brooks Baseball, but this season that number has jumped to 93.

One of the reasons for that spike has been Cecil's use of a weighted ball program that also was used by right-hander Steve Delabar in his comeback from a fractured right elbow.

But Gibbons believes that Cecil's success stems from more than just the fastball. Midway through Spring Training, Toronto's manager noticed that Cecil was using his offspeed pitches with more regularity, and it was leading to better overall results.

"The real focus was getting his velocity back and he was showing signs of doing that, but you've still got to be a pitcher," Gibbons said. "He came in and he started throwing his breaking ball, his changeup, and everything came together after that.

"Early on, I don't know if he was trying to show us his fastball or establish that thing -- the velocity -- but he wasn't throwing a lot of strikes with it. Then, when he started doing that, he basically turned into a pitcher."

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.