Looking back to last season, his first in St. Louis, Brett Cecil provided an honest evaluation of his performance.
“I give myself probably a 5 or 6 out of 10,” assessed Cecil. “Just because it was really bad at some points and I was able to stabilize a little bit and keep an ok season but, yeah, I’m not happy or not satisfied with it by any means.”
Appearing in 73 games while allowing 67 hits in 67.1 innings, a .343 average against left-handed batters, and 41% of his inherited runners to score (13/32) wasn’t quite what the left-hander or St. Louis Cardinals had in mind when he signed a four-year free agent deal after 2016.
“I think that’s kind of the part that bothered me the most is, you know, you sign this big contract and you come over and you have an okay year,” said Cecil. “That’s not what you’re expecting, that’s not what people are expecting. I feel like I’ve almost given the people the wrong impression of myself and hopefully I can change it and show them the me for the next three years.”
Cecil also points to being able to attend the Winter Warm-Up as a help. Last year, his day to appear was cancelled due to the weather. This year, he was eager to meet with fans and let them get to see he wants to do well.
“I think things like this kind of help with that,” he explained. “Just saying ‘hi, how you doing’ and I love kids, man. I’ve got three of my own and I just like meeting new people, especially little kids. Just seeing the smiles on their faces. I think of myself as a very down to earth, very normal person and to see kids excited just to say hi to me, it’s weird for me but it’s fun at the same time.
“Like I said, I love meeting new people and especially just coming to a new place. You want to find out what the people are all about and just meeting the new fan base.”
Besides the Warm-Up, Cecil has already met more fans the last couple of months as he and his family stayed in St. Louis while their home in Florida is being built.
“It was cold,” laughed Cecil, who bought season tickets for the St. Louis Blues. “I’ve been to three games, I think. I’ve had buddies and friends use my tickets.”
Baseball-wise, Cecil has also made adjustments to try and improve in 2018. A self-described slow starter, he adjusted his workout routine to try and provide a jumpstart.
“I started throwing a little bit earlier,” said Cecil. “A little more aggressive, but not terribly aggressive. Just kind of throw a little bit earlier and kind of not amp it up too much but just a little bit. Just hopefully get the kinks and get the soreness out a little bit sooner than the first two weeks, month of the season, so we’ll see how it goes.”
This will carry over to when he begins throwing his breaking pitch.
“You don’t want to throw too many because then you just end up developing bad habits,” said Cecil. “But I think just a matter of starting, starting earlier, not overdoing it but just starting earlier hopefully will–that feel will come quicker.”
As things currently stand, the Cardinals bullpen is going to evolve this season. Luke Gregerson appears to have the first shot at closer, but there are a variety of arms that will have to sort out the innings in front of him.
Heading down to Jupiter with jobs open for competition is one thing, but for Cecil, the sooner there is clarity for the respective roles the better.
“I think at some point in Spring Training you gotta have your closer, you gotta have your setup man, and you gotta have your sixth and seventh guys,” said Cecil. “I think it’s important for guys to know that going into the season just because it makes it easier for preparation for us. We’re not playing a guessing game from the fourth or fifth inning on.
“I know for me, if (Mike Matheny) says, you know, if somebody gets in trouble you’re gonna be our seventh inning guy or you’re gonna be our eighth inning guy, I know it’s easier for me to prepare for that rather than having to be ready for four innings and you don’t know when you’re going to go in, rather than ‘ok, be ready for two innings because you might be going in for the seventh inning, or be ready for the eighth inning if whatever the case may be’. It’s just nice to know whatever the case may be. It makes preparation easier.”
In the meantime, Cecil will continue to workout before he leaves for Florida–and may take Carson Kelly to a Blues game to watch his favorite player on the team.
“Pietrangelo,” he shared.
photo credit: BIll Greenblatt/UPI, Brian Stull/STLBaseballWeekly.com, Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports