Heading into the 2016 season, if you asked people where their concerns lied in terms of the Toronto Blue Jays, most would’ve pointed towards the pitching staff. Toronto’s starting pitchers presented many question marks, while the bullpen appeared to be in good shape.
Through 33 games, it’s actually quite the opposite; the rotation has been a revelation and the bullpen has been a dumpster fire. And two of the biggest culprits in the relief department have been Brett Cecil and Drew Storen.
Both relievers have struggled mightily through the first part of the schedule and just haven’t looked like themselves. Storen and Cecil were supposed to be shutdown high leverage relievers for the Blue Jays this season, and thus far they’ve been anything but.
And yet John Gibbons has gone to them time and time again in the hopes of righting the ship, but it hasn’t quite worked yet. Storen and Cecil are scuffling right now, and not surprisingly, so too are the Toronto Blue Jays.
Since the Blue Jays have struggled to score runs this far, Gibbons has been forced to put these guys in high leverage situations, and more often than not, it just hasn’t worked out for Brett Cecil or Drew Storen.
It’s very disconcerting because these were supposed to be two of the most reliable arms on the team this season, and instead they’ve been the most volatile. Neither Storen or Cecil can seem to gain any sort of traction in an attempt to turn their seasons around. It’s still somewhat early, but to see their struggles spill over into May is cause for concern.
John Gibbons is not in a very envious position here because he must somehow find a way to get not one but two of his most important relievers turned around in a very short period. And it’s not as though Gibby can pull these guys out of their respective roles, either.
Brett Cecil is a tenured veteran and the longest-serving Blue Jay on the roster. Drew Storen went through a widely-publicized struggle after being moved into the setup role last season. So Gibby must somehow find a way to manage these guys without damaging their psyches any further.
We’re already beginning to see the first phase of taking Drew Storen and Brett Cecil out of higher leverage situations as guys like Gavin Floyd and Jesse Chavez are beginning to see more late-inning work.
I think the Blue Jays are slowly beginning to realize they can’t just continually run Drew Storen and Brett Cecil out there in close games in the hopes that they’ll turn things around. That worked for a span of about three games for Storen, and then he blew up again yesterday.
The leash on Cecil is even shorter than Storen’s, as Brett has failed to get an out in three of his last five appearances. In his last outing, John Gibbons had to take Brett Cecil out of the game after facing only two hitters.
Cecil has basically been relegated to LOOGY duty and Storen is dangerously close to becoming a reliever that may only face right-handed hitters. Not exactly what the Blue Jays were expecting from their supposed seventh and eighth inning guys.
Over the course of a 162 game season, I’m sure both of these guys would figure things out. For some reason I have a little more faith in Cecil and a little less in Storen. But the fact that the Jays’ margin for error is razor thin right now doesn’t bode well for struggling relievers like Cecil and Storen.
Even if the Blue Jays were scoring a lot more runs, I don’t think things would be much different because Brett Cecil and Drew Storen were supposed to be relied upon in late and close situations. If the Jays were still blowing other teams out, relievers like Joe Biagini would be seeing a lot more work.
Since the Blue Jays have played so many close games, John Gibbons has been strong-armed into using Cecil and Storen much more than he’d like to. And in about two-thirds of those scenarios, their appearances have ended in disappointment.
The fact is, if you took a pair of anybody’s high leverage relievers out of the equation, that team would struggle as well. It just so happens the Blue Jays had two of their most important relievers fall down for the first five weeks of the season.
Here’s hoping Cecil and Storen are simply getting this all out of their system now so they can dominate the rest of the way.
Images via Tom Szczerbowski/Todd Korol