DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Blue Jays left-hander Brett Cecil looks a lot more relaxed in his surroundings this year, and it's easy to understand why.
After years of fighting to make the team out of Spring Training, Cecil finally enters camp with a guaranteed job. Last season, Cecil didn't find out he was heading north until one of the final days of camp, but all of that uncertainty is ancient history.
Cecil went from barely cracking the 25-man roster in March to someone who was an American League All-Star by the middle of July. Now he can relax just a little bit and focus on the task at hand instead of constantly looking over his shoulder to see who might take his job.
"Completely different," Cecil said when asked to compare this year's camp to 2013. "I'm fairly certain that I have a spot on the team. Obviously I have to perform, but there's more pressure taken off not being on the bubble for once. My mind's clear, just focusing on getting my quality work in, not necessarily quantity work."
The added luxury of having a secure spot means there's also less pressure on Cecil having to prove himself every day. When Cecil was on the fringe, there was always someone watching, and that meant he felt the need to go full bore all of the time.
In theory, that sounds good, but the reality of the situation is that it can also lead to problems down the road. Cecil figured that out firsthand when he began to run out of gas during the second half of the season and eventually developed soreness in his left shoulder.
That's one reason why Cecil is planning to be a little more diligent this season. There are times when he will need to limit his throwing on the side and also his weighted-ball workout routine. When his arm is feeling a little tired or sore, it's best to back off and give it a day before getting back to work.
"Like I've already told the trainers, coaches, 'I'll let you guys know if I'm not feeling 100 percent,'" said Cecil, who went 5-1 with a 2.82 ERA last year. "I just don't want any red flags to be thrown up, but I am going to be a lot smarter about the time I take throwing, when I feel like I really need the work, if I feel like I need to take a day, I said I'm going to take a day.
"For example, [on Friday], they told me I had 25 pitches, and I said I don't need 25 pitches, I'll do 20. If I can throw 20, I'm sure I can get five more in a game down the road. I don't need that right now. I need 20 or so and that'd be it. So right now, it's just saving as many bullets as I can for August/September and hopefully October."