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News » Fill-in pitchers look as if they're here to stay

Fill-in pitchers look as if they're here to stay

Fill-in pitchers look as if they're here to stay

If 22-year-old Brett Cecil wasn't feeling secure making his third start as an injury replacement for the Toronto Blue Jays last night against the Chicago White Sox, it was for no good reason.

Not only was the wet-behind-the-ears left-hander the beneficiary of another power surge by the Blue Jays , who mauled the White Sox 8-3 in the first of a four-game set at Rogers Centre, his spot on the team appears stable for the immediate future.

Same for rookie Robert Ray, who is slated to make just the second start of his major-league career this afternoon for Toronto in the second game of the series.

Heck, you can even include Brian Tallet in that group, a refugee from the Toronto bullpen who has done yeoman service pinch-hitting as a starter since the rotation was racked by injuries early in the season.

Despite comments to the contrary over the past 10 days or so, the Blue Jays are now saying they are committed to sticking with the likes of Cecil, Ray and Tallet, at least until they show they cannot continue to perform effectively as starters at the major-league level.

"Everybody we've put out there has pitched well," Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi said before last night's blowout. "I mean, they're all deserving of being out there. We didn't sit down and draw it up like this. I think with all things being equal, the guys have done a great job.

"How do you tell Brian Tallet he shouldn't start? How do you take [Scott] Richmond out? I think we've said all along, we're going to need all these guys."

When your team continues to sport one of the best records in the majors (24-14 after last night) with a patchwork rotation, you can afford to have that kind of flexibility.

What it all means is that rookie sensation Ricky Romero, who was activated from the disabled list yesterday, will continue to bide his time at Toronto's Triple-A affiliate in Las Vegas.

Romero had a strong start in Toronto before being sidelined by a right oblique injury - 2-0 with a 1.71 earned-run average in three starts.

The same for Casey Janssen, who appeared for 70 games as a middle reliever for the Jays in 2007 before shoulder surgery wiped out his 2008 campaign.

Janssen, who is being stretched out as a starter, is also ready to go, playing at the Double-A level in New Hampshire.

Even Jesse Litsch, who began the year as the No. 2 hurler behind ace Roy Halladay, isn't guaranteed his spot back in the rotation after he fully recovers from a right forearm injury that has sidelined him for a month.

Litsch is not expected to be ready until mid-June.

"Right now we don't have open spots for them," Ricciardi said.

But that's not to say things won't change quickly.

"You look at our rotation, there's one guy who deserves all the benefits that come, and it's Halladay," Ricciardi said. "Everybody else is a young guy with not a lot of experience.

"It's fluid, so to speak."

Cecil acquitted himself well last night, lasting six innings and giving up three runs off three hits, two of them home runs, by Paul Konerko and Jermaine Dye.

Cecil is 1-1 on the year.

Cecil received solid backup from the Toronto hitters, Aaron Hill in particular. Hill went 3-for-4, driving in two runs, giving him 32 RBIs on the year.

One of Hill's hits was a home run - his team-leading 10th of the season - a two-run shot in the third inning that provided Toronto with a 2-0 lead.

The Jays blew things open in the fourth when the first seven batters collected hits off Chicago pitchers, the first five off John Danks, the beleaguered starter.

The Blue Jays went on to score six runs in the inning to take control.

The Blue Jays welcomed back a familiar face last night in the form of B.J. Ryan, the former closer who rejoined a team after a stint on the DL with a sore left shoulder.

Scott Downs has since been appointed Toronto's new closer, but Ryan got into the game last night for some mop-up duty in the ninth.

Ryan admitted before the game that he deserved the demotion.

"You lose your role by not pitching good," Ryan said. "That's what it boils down to. You don't pitch good, you don't make pitches and you put your team in a place that they don't need to be in."

After surrendering a leadoff walk to Jim Thome, Ryan settled down to strike out Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski before getting Alexei Ramirez to pop out to centre.



NOTES: John Danks, last night's starting pitcher for Chicago, was shelled for five runs off five consecutive hits to begin the fourth inning and was not pleased by the boos and taunts directed his way afterward by some of the 17,241 fans. After getting the hook, Danks mockingly tipped his cap to the crowd before he disappeared into the dugout. "Those fans, I don't want to get in trouble, they're hockey fans, I'll call them that," Danks said. "They were getting on me pretty good and it was just kind of my way of slapping them back in the face, I guess you could say." ... Toronto reliever Jason Frasor is tied for first with four wins among all major-league relievers. Heading into last night's game, opponents were batting just .174 against him, left-handers .050. He has allowed just one run in 15 appearances this season

NOTES In Thursday's game against the New York Yankees, Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said he had a couple of options in the seventh inning when the light-hitting John McDonald was coming to bat with runners at first and third and one out in a 2-2 game. One of them was not a squeeze play. "I don't know if I've ever squeezed," Gaston said. "Maybe I will one of these days. Might fool everybody." McDonald struck out. The Blue Jays wound up losing 3-2. ... Toronto reliever Jason Frasor is tied for first with four wins among all major-league relievers. Heading into last night's game, opponents were batting just .174 against him, left-handers .050. ... This is the second meeting of the year between the Jays and the White Sox. Toronto took two of three games late last month in Chicago.

NEXT Today at the Rogers Centre, 1:07 EDT against the Chicago White Sox.

Probable pitchers Jays RHP Robert Ray (0-1, 6.00) v. White Sox RHP Bartolo Colon (2-3, 4.88).

TV Rogers Sportnet.

Robert MacLeod

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: May 16, 2009

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