Q+A with Brett Cecil
Here’s my recent sitdown Q+A with Blue Jays left-handed starter Brett Cecil:
You obviously came into camp having lost an awful lot of weight. What did you change in your offseason workout routine?
“Nothing really changed, it just got more intense. I used last year as motivation for me, I didn’t want it to happen again. I just wanted to work hard at what I was doing, I was putting in the time, so I wanted to get the utmost out of it. I didn’t really do anything different weights wise.
“Core and endurance was a little bit different … It was a new company that came out and they were measuring biomechanical speed of shoulders, torsos, everything, so everything was good in my shoulders and my legs were fine but the muscles in my (core) weren’t firing at the right time and they said it could be a lack of endurance. The strength was there, we have a routine, the starters lift legs and do ab workouts, so I had the strength but I wasn’t able to contract and hold it for a long period of time. So did a lot of planks — toes and sitting on your elbows — for 30-45 seconds and they did this with a lot of guys not just me, using the video of my season as example of working the core out more so they incorporated it more into one big workout.
“You’d have a set of legs, then a super set that would incorporate your core endurance and planks, all different types of stuff. That was really the only thing that changed. I took the initiative to jump on the elliptical after my workout, after warming up, jump on the elliptical for about 20-25 minutes, run 10 minutes on a treadmill, run for 25 minutes, whatever it may be. My thinking on that, starting a little bit later in the offseason you start getting into routines of a long day followed by a sprint day, a long day and then a short sprint day, kind of what we’re doing right now, and my thing was I wanted to shed the weight and that would initially make me quicker, faster, keep my heart rate up for a longer period of time instead of short sprints. You get a lot out of that but as far as trying to lose 40 pounds, it will take awhile, so for the first two and a half months I did an extra 25-30 minutes of cardio each day. It wasn’t light cardio either, I was getting after it a little bit. The core endurance workouts and the amount of cardio I did every day is pretty much the only thing I changed, everything else stayed the same.”
How often were you working out?
“I’d go Monday-through-Friday with offdays on Saturday and Sunday. Weights Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and just straight cardio on Wednesday.”
How do you think having lost all of that weight is going to help you on the mound this season?
“It’s going to help with everything. As far as mechanics, I was joking around with Papi (Blue Jays pitching coach Bruce Walton), I don’t have 40 extra pounds pulling me towards the first-base side so it’s easier to stay on line. I say that kind of as a joke but it’s true, I don’t have that weight coming across the body and just shoving me over towards first base so it’s easier to stay online. It has made my feet unbelievably quicker, my arm is a lot quicker, which I’m trying to get used to now. Last year my arm was dragging a lot, my arm speed was slow, now I feel like it’s not too fast — it’ll never be too fast — but right now it’s too fast for my body so it’s a matter of getting the timing down as far as when everything fires a certain time, all your muscles fire at a certain time, and now the arm just wants to get out in front. So I have to make a few adjustments but I don’t think they’re going to be very hard.”
To a certain extent it almost seems like you’re pitching with a completely different body…
“Since I’ve been over 200 pounds the lowest I’ve been was 208 and that was sophomore year in college. The same thing happened then, my arm speed got quicker, I was a closer then, but that’s when I started throwing 93-95 as a closer and eventually in the Cape League I got it up to 97-98. I know I’m in the right shape to do it — I’m not saying I’m going to throw 96 — but hopefully it will be a lot better than last year. But, again, I’m not worried about that, I’m worried about location more than anything and that’s what’s most important. But do I think I will get back up there? Yeah, I think so. I think it’s just a matter of time before I can get everything timed right, the arm’s still building up.”
Are you worried at all about losing too much weight?
“I thought about that because I was trying to be at 215-220 coming into camp and I was 214. Then I expressed that I didn’t want to lose too much weight, but if the weight’s going to keep coming off and I still feel good, not getting light headed during workouts or any kind of activity I’m not going to worry about it. I’m not going to be a guy that goes down to 180, then we’d have some problems. I don’t think, I can’t see myself passing out from a workout from 200-to-210 so no I’m not worried about losing too much weight but we’ll just see how I feel.
Was there a point last year when you were just looking forward to having the season end?
“Yeah. It’s weird because I wish it didn’t happen because it was such a bad year but then again I’m really happy that it did happen and happened early, it’s just given me motivation to do what I’ve done. Hopefully it pays off.”
The ERA you posted when you came back after a demotion to Triple-A was pretty similar to what you posted during your 15-win season. Do you feel like a little bit too much negativity was taken out of your results last season?
“No I don’t think it was as bad as it was made out but I can’t worry about that stuff. My job is to control what I can control and that’s from when I take the first step back in my wind-up to when I release the ball, that’s it. Control everything within there and I knew I threw better once I came back but also there was a lot of the same from before I went down. I had good games and bad games, I knew I lost a couple of low-scoring one-run games but that’s going to happen. You only have one job to do and that’s when you step back to when you release the ball and that’s it. You can’t go up there with a bat in your hand, I certainly can’t, I can’t hit worth a lick. I can’t control that, these hitters are on our team for a reason and it’s a damn good reason. They’re pretty good so I wouldn’t want anybody else up at the plate than the nine we have starting.”
It seemed like in an awful lot of your starts last year there was just a couple of pitches that ended up completely changing your results — ones that ended up being hit for home runs — do you feel that way?
“Yeah, I had a lot of games like that. The one I remember the most was Boston, complete game I gave up two hits and those two hits were a solo homer and a two-run homer and I lost 3-2. I thought I could have thrown a no hitter if I didn’t throw those two pitches and there’s a lot of games like that. That’s really all it comes down to, one pitch, if a guy hits a homer that’s your one pitch, or you’ve got a guy on first and second and you throw a pitch a little bit up and he drives in some runs whereas if you locate the ball down you get the groundball for a double play and you’re out of the inning. I think pretty much, unless you have an awful game, it usually comes down to just one pitch that changes it.”
There was lots of talk in the offseason about the Blue Jays looking to add another front-line starting pitcher. Was there any point that you were like, wait a minute, I can be that guy?
“It didn’t really go through my head. I knew coming into camp and throughout the offseason, if I work hard that hopefully I would be given another chance with that third spot. Certainly I’m not going to be the ace, Ricky’s the ace, he’s an unbelievable human being on and off the field, works his butt off, and he’s just a good guy for people to look up to, older guys and younger guys, it doesn’t matter. That’s just how he goes about his business and that’s how good he is. As far as me being a front-line starter, I didn’t think about that. To impact the team, of course, I want to help this team win and I’m going to help the younger guys as much as I can and I’m going to do everything I can to make this team better and do everything I can to help the team win when I’m pitching.”
But do you think between yourself, Henderson Alvarez and Dustin McGowan there’s enough pitching to go along with Romero and Morrow?
“Yeah I think so. For sure. I think obviously they’re obviously waiting on Dustin because of all the injuries he’s had, which is understandable, they’re waiting to see if he can bounce back and I’m sure he can. He did a good job last year when he came back and I think a lot of people are going to be surprised with the team as a whole and even our starting rotation. We’ve got Ricky, Morrow, and hopefully I can get back to 2010 form if not better and with Dustin everybody just has to understand the mental stability that guy has. To go through what he’s gone through for three years and finally be able to get back at it, get back on the mound and throw, it takes an unbelievably mentally strong person to be able to go through that and still want to proceed with it. A lot of guys think they have no chance, they’re injury proned, and they don’t see a point in beating themselves up but that’s one person I have to hand it to on the team is Dustin. He’s a trooper.
“Henderson, raw stuff, unbelivable stuff. He doesn’t even know how good he is yet and hopefully this year will be a great year for him and two, three, four years down the road, there’s no telling what he can do.”
Last year’s outfield defense was one of the weak spots for this club. What do you think a full season of Rasmus and Bautista in the outfield will do for the pitchers?
“It’s going to help tremendously. Rasmus is a guy that, he runs like a gazelle, he just glides to the ball, it’s fun to watch him catch even just routine balls and when he has to go after a ball it’s even better. Jose is obviously one of the best arms, if not the best arms in baseball and I feel very comfortable with him throwing guys out and I’ve noticed his ability to track balls has gotten tremendously better.
“In left field, whoever it may be, those guys can track balls with the best of them and they hit for a ton of power. I feel very comfortable with outfield, infield, catcher, bullpen, everything. Like I told a lot of guys here this is the most excited I’ve ever been to start a season.”