- Associated Press - Saturday, February 22, 2014

DUNEDIN, Fla. (AP) - Brett Cecil walked into spring training last year with his career in limbo.

The Toronto left-hander seemed far removed from his breakout season of 2010, when he posted a team-high 15 wins despite not making the 25-man roster out of camp.

Instead, he was fresh off two years of disappointment. He’d bounced back and forth between the Blue Jays and Triple-A, going a combined 6-15 while getting demoted from the rotation.

Cecil knew that if he didn’t show improvement, his days in Toronto would be numbered.

“There was a big discussion before the beginning of spring last year whether he was even going to make the team,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said Saturday.

That doubt forced the 6-foot-1, 215-pound Cecil to make a change. He began throwing a weighted baseball during pitching drills to help strengthen his arm and build velocity.

It worked.

After several strong outings, Cecil was informed in the final days of camp that he’d made the final cut. As a reliever, in fact.

Cecil took advantage of that opportunity and went 5-1 with a 2.82 ERA and one save. He was also picked as an American League All-Star for the first time.

Cecil pitched in 60 games, striking out 70 in 60 2-3 innings. He signed a one-year, $1.3 million contract in the offseason.

The 27-year-old Cecil said last year’s experience changed his mindset and made him appreciate what he has.

“Completely different,” he said. “I’m fairly certain that I have a spot on the team. Obviously, I have to perform, but it’s a little bit more pressure taken off not being on the bubble.”

Though Cecil performed well early on in 2013, he began to wear down during the second half of the season.

Extra work with the weighted-ball routine and the added stress of having to continuously prove himself took a toll on his body.

In September, soreness developed in his shoulder and prematurely ended his season.

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