Cecil redeems himself after losing closer role

Blue Jays left-hander retires three of four batters faced Thursday

Cecil redeems himself after losing closer role

NEW YORK -- Brett Cecil bounced back more quickly than expected and looked like a man with something to prove in his return to the mound Thursday night.

Hours after -- at least temporarily -- losing the closer's role, Cecil looked like his old self. His fastball was mostly in the low 90s and his curveball was back to its usual dominating ways.

Cecil was called upon to pitch the eighth inning of a three-run game and responded by retiring three of the four batters he faced. The veteran lefty struck out two, walked one and got a weak flyout to right.

Cecil's immediate recovery was perhaps the most positive development that happened to the Blue Jays in a series victory over the Yankees. For all the talk about how good Roberto Osuna and Miguel Castro have looked in relief, Toronto needs Cecil just as much.

"One hundred percent better," Cecil said after Toronto's 6-3 victory. "Last night, hands were numb, couldn't feel my fingertips. Little bit of the same tonight, but stuff, in general, just felt better. Fastball felt like it was coming out better, there was better action on my curveball.

"I felt like my curveball last night had a little bit of a hump in it, instead of just dropping down like it normally does. Everything felt 100 percent better."

Cecil arrived at the ballpark earlier in the day and was promptly called into manager John Gibbons' office. Cecil was informed that the closer's role no longer solely belonged to him and he would be pitching anywhere from the seventh to the ninth inning.

The development came after Cecil struggled in his season debut against the Yankees. Cecil entered Wednesday night with the bases loaded and threw a wild pitch before eventually striking out Carlos Beltran. That provided a moment of hope, but Cecil hit Brian McCann and had a chopper bounce off his glove for an infield single.

After that game, Cecil admitted he was probably a couple of weeks behind everybody else because of a left shoulder injury that caused him to miss most of Spring Training. The following day, Gibbons conceded Cecil "isn't sharp" and that he was "all over the place" in his season debut.

Those comments might sound alarming, but it didn't deter Gibbons from using Cecil in another key situation on Thursday.

"Ever since college, I've always felt better the second day I pitch," Cecil said. "I just felt way better. It was a little bit warmer out there than I think it was last night. I felt better, I felt sharper, hopefully just build off that one and keep it going."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.