Blue Jays demote Cecil, end spring with rotation questions

The Blue Jays went to spring training with a full rotation and renewed hopes of being competitive in the American League East.

They end spring training with a patchwork rotation that calls into question their chances of survival in baseball's toughest division.

The decisions that the Blue Jays announced Tuesday morning -- sending Brett Cecil to Double-A New Hampshire and putting Kyle Drabek and Joel Carreno in the big-league rotation -- were both stunning and understandable, if that combination is possible.

Cecil has struggled all spring, with his velocity down and his results worsening as March wore on. In his final two spring starts, Cecil gave up 11 runs on 15 hits with six walks in just 6 2/3 innings.

"It became increasingly clear that Brett needs a few more starts to gain the consistent command required to compete against the lineups he's going to face at the major-league level," Blue Jays manager John Farrell told reporters (including Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star).

Without Cecil, and without McGowan (out until at least May), the Jays turned to Drabek and Carreno.

Drabek, acquired from the Phillies in the Roy Halladay trade, has pitched in the big leagues each of the last two years and came to camp as the sixth starter. So that move wasn't surprising.

Carreno, on the other hand, has never started a game above Double-A. The 25-year-old right-hander made 11 appearances in the big leagues last year, but was sent down this spring after pitching just five innings in big-league games.

The Blue Jays also had Aaron Laffey available, but Farrell told reporters that the team preferred Carreno's power arm.

Carreno will pitch the third game of the season, which makes sense because it slots him against the Indians rather than against the Red Sox. With off days, the Blue Jays could then go with four starters until April 21.

The Blue Jays let it be known during the spring that they were looking to upgrade their rotation. They watched Gavin Floyd of the White Sox, but apparently didn't come close to making a deal.

Cecil has started 65 games for Toronto over the last three years, going 26-22 with a 4.64 ERA. His velocity was down this spring, with his fastball clocked at just 85-86 mph.

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