Cecil to be used as lefty specialist for now

Cecil to be used as lefty specialist for now

TORONTO -- Blue Jays manager John Gibbons is going to use veteran reliever Brett Cecil primarily against left-handers until he begins to turn his season around.

Cecil has spent each of the last three years as a setup man who faced batters from both sides of the plate. In 2015, he faced more right-handed hitters (121) than he did lefties (77).

The original plan was for more of the same this season, but an 0-5 record with a 5.59 ERA over 9 2/3 innings entering Thursday has caused Gibbons to change course. He will use Cecil as a lefty specialist for the time being, while giving expanded roles to right-handers Gavin Floyd and Jesse Chavez.

"Until he gets going," Gibbons said. "We've got guys like Chavez, who have been really good against righties. Gavin Floyd has been really good against lefties. Until it irons itself out, we'll approach it that way, depending on how many innings they have to work."

Last season, Cecil's numbers against righties and lefties were almost identical. He limited righties to a .198/.254/.322 slash line, while lefties hit .195/.253/.286. When Cecil is at his best, his curveball can be lethal against hitters from both sides of the plate, but the results this year have not been favorable.

The long-term goal is to eventually have Cecil return to a more traditional setup role, but until some positive results surface, his outings will be shorter than normal.

"We're better than we've pitched," Gibbons said. "That has to iron itself out a little bit."

Day off for Saunders
Blue Jays left fielder Michael Saunders got a regular day of rest for Toronto's series finale against the Rangers on Thursday night. Saunders usually starts against both lefties and righties, but it was an opportune time for some rest with Derek Holland on the mound for Texas.

Kevin Pillar, who extended his hitting streak to six games Thursday, was promoted to the leadoff spot in Saunders' absence. Pillar began the season as the leadoff hitter but struggled in that role and was later dropped to the bottom third of the order. He will return to the bottom of the lineup Friday night vs. the Dodgers.

"He could use it, we're going to do that periodically to keep him strong," Gibbons said of Saunders. "[Pillar] has been swinging it, [and there is a] lefty on the mound."

Positive signs for Storen
Toronto reliever Drew Storen finally has something positive to build on. Storen, who got off to a rough start this season, is coming off a pair of scoreless outings and appears to be turning a corner.

Storen struck out two in Wednesday's 4-3 victory over the Rangers and on Monday he worked a perfect frame with one strikeout. His command seems to have improved, and more important, his slider -- which is the top pitch in his arsenal -- has been noticeably more effective.

"I thought Storen looked really good last night," Gibbons said. "That was a nice outing for him, and hopefully that gets him on track a little bit."

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.