Blue Jays Weekend Recap: Jo-Jo Goes Bye-Bye; JPA Powers Up, Cecil Shuts 'em Down

By Thom Tsang

Apologies for the lack of recaps on the individual games this weekend – I have been away without access to internet outside of my phone. That being said, I’ve caught up on the Blue Jays games that took place this weekend against the Texas Rangers, and I think there are some things that are probably worth talking about:

1) It wasn’t exactly a surprise that Jo-Jo Reyes would perform poorly against the Texas Rangers – hell, he’s performed poorly against most opponents he’s faced in his career. The 26-year old lefty “improved” over his last outing against the AL West leaders – a 2.2 inning appearance that saw him allow 6 unearned runs – by going 4.1 inning this time around. Reyes was tagged for 8 runs however, and this time the other cleat finally dropped on the Alex Anthopoulous reclamation project, with the team presumably ran out of excuses to keep him in the rotation.

Reyes was DFA’d the next day, and to be honest, it came probably a couple of months too long. He’ll leave with a unsightly 5.40/1.59 split, with a opponents batting average of .306 – and really, I think that’s the number that best describes Reyes’s problems at this level. His stuff is too hittable; maybe some pitching coach in the NL will be able to fix him, but I’m frankly just relieved it won’t have to be the Blue Jays that continue to suffer any more of quite possibly the very worst starting pitcher in the big leagues right now (maybe besides John Lackey). The most significant thing Reyes will have done in his time here in Toronto is managing to set a career high 5-wins as a starter during this season, doubling his career total to 10 over 57 starts. Which is to say…oh, nevermind.

2) Onto more positive thoughts, there was JP Arenciabia, who broke out of a brutal slump that saw him hit just .147 since June 1st, cranking out a 3 homers over the first two game of the series. We knew coming into this season that Arencibia would be a streaky hitter, but we probably didn’t expect the rookie to literally do nothing for almost all of 2 months while playing with what I’m speculating to be an injured finger.

Arencibia looked flat-out lost at the plate more times than I could count in the stretch of games headed into this series, and I think it says a lot about what the franchise thinks of him to let him ride out the rough patch. It’s a luxury that hadn’t been given to previous top prospects like Lind and Snider; but JPA has nothing left to prove in AAA, and I think having him grind out the ups and downs of a full season is the only way the rookie will really move forward in his development. Sure, and .216/.281 splits look pretty damned ugly, but JPA is currently tied for 2nd in home runs in the catcher’s position with 15, so while it hasn’t been a fantastic rookie campaign, there are definitely positives to work on moving forward. One of the main concerns going into the future will be his defensive ability and his game-calling acumen, and I’d imagine that he’ll probably want to do something about that position-leading strikeout rate that currently sits at 28.1%.

3) We’ll finish with the biggest reason why the Jays were able to salvage a game out of the series this weekend, and that would be Brett Cecil, who came in looking for consistency since his return to the rotation, and left with his first career complete-game shut-out. The shutout itself would have been impressive enough for anyone in the league, but for a control pitcher like Cecil to do it in a hitter’s park – and against arguably the best team in the AL – is quite a feat. Cecil allowed just 4 hits and 2 walks in his 9 innings of work, while striking out 7 and outlasting the Rangers’ Alexi Ogando on the mound.

It’s a growing moment for Cecil, who actually threw his first CG of the season earlier this month in a losing effort. The lefty started off the season as the #2 starter, but I think it’s more likely that he’ll be a reliable 3-4 guy down the road. Cecil doesn’t really have overpowering stuff like Morrow, or even a big strikeout pitch like Ricky Romero, and is more of a true jack-of-all-trades type arms who live and die by their control. He’s back at 2010 levels since his return in the K/BB department, and has a 3.63 ERA in July. While the ERA is probably going to sit at just over 4.00 post-break, Cecil is still very much learning how to use all of his pitches in a starting capacity, and Sunday night as a reminder of what the former 38th overall pick is capable of when he puts it all together.

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