- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 20, 2009

It turns out Brett Cecil’s homecoming was postponed, not canceled, and merely moved to a different spot in his backyard.

The 22-year-old rookie left-hander, who graduated from DeMatha High School and starred at the University of Maryland, was supposed to start for the Toronto Blue Jays against the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards on Memorial Day. More than 100 friends and relatives made plans to attend. But three days before the game, Cecil, from Dunkirk, Md., was sent back to the minors.

Since then, an extraordinary rash of injuries has sidelined every starter in the Blue Jays’ five-man rotation, including ace Roy Halladay. Guess who’s back? Toronto is going with four rookie starters, including Cecil, who is slated to face the Washington Nationals on Saturday at Nationals Park.

“It’s gonna be awesome,” he said Friday. “It’s just gonna be nice to pitch at this level in front of my family.”

Said his father, Duane: “This is great. And it’s on Father’s Day weekend. I get to see him, and I get to go watch him play.”

The 38th pick in the 2007 draft after an outstanding season as the Terps’ closer, Cecil came up from Class AAA Las Vegas on May 1 as an injury replacement and went 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA in his first three starts. But before his scheduled start against the Orioles, he had to face the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Cecil gave up eight runs in 4 2/3 innings and a tied a team record by yielding five home runs.

Two days later, he was informed at 3 a.m. that he was going back to Vegas. General manager J.P. Ricciardi said at the time that Cecil was sent down mainly because other pitchers had gotten healthy.

But the Boston outing didn’t help. “I was disappointed, but everything happens for a reason,” Cecil said.

“It’s part of the game,” his dad said.

Cecil said he learned a lot from his Fenway experience — don’t rely on just one pitch, work quickly but not too quickly and claim the inside part of the plate. He said his pitching coach at Maryland, Jim Farr, told him: “When you were at Maryland, that was your game. You’re an inside guy, slider in.”

“That’s basically where I live — the inner half of the plate,” Cecil said.

He got away from that against the Red Sox because “the game sped up on me,” he said, but he made the necessary adjustments. Apparently what happened in Vegas will not stay in Vegas for Cecil.

“I went back with the mentality, ‘I’ve got to throw inside. I’ve got to throw inside,’ ” he said.

“He’s certainly gonna pitch at this level,” Toronto manager Cito Gaston said. “He will pitch in the big leagues because he’s a kid with about four different pitches. He’s just got to be consistent hitting his spots. That’s what makes [Halladay] such a great pitcher.”

Cecil will take Halladay’s slot in the rotation. The veteran right-hander suffered a right groin strain against Florida on June 12, and the Blue Jays are in no hurry to rush him back. He still leads the majors with 10 wins. Those are big spikes to fill, especially for someone who does not yet consider himself a true major leaguer.

“I can compete at this level, but I don’t think I’ve earned the right to call myself a big league pitcher,” said Cecil, who will turn 23 on July 2. “I’ve still got a lot to learn.”

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