I was one of the cynics when the Toronto Blue Jays called up Brett Cecil from Triple-A Las Vegas.
But two starts in, Cecil has looked really good.
On Sunday afternoon, the rookie left-hander shut down the Oakland A's to pick up his first big-league win, and the Blue Jays won, 5-0.
Cecil gave up just five hits in his eight scoreless innings. He walked two and struck out six.
Alex Rios homered for the Blue Jays, and had three RBI. Rios' third homer, a solo blast in the third inning, gave the Jays a 1-0 lead, before his sacrifice fly in the fifth upped the advantage to 2-0.
Toronto had a shot to blow the game wide open in the fifth, but Oakland starter Dallas Braden struck out both Vernon Wells and Adam Lind with runners on second and third to end the threat.
Rios added a ninth-inning RBI single to cap off the scoring, giving the Jays a 5-0 edge.
The A's Jason Giambi, who hit two homers the day before, is stuck at 399 career homers. Giambi went 0-for-4 on Sunday.
Braden, who was 3-3 with an impressive 2.50 ERA going in, again didn't receive any run-support against the Blue Jays.
This was the second time Braden has suffered a shutout loss to the Blue Jays, and the third time overall. Braden was the losing pitcher in Ricky Romero's 1-0 gem on Apr. 19 at Rogers Centre, and the A's starter also lost 3-0 in Anaheim in his first start of the year.
But the story on Sunday afternoon was definitely Cecil, who helped the Jays win yet another series. Toronto has dropped just one series thus far in 2009, when it dropped three-of-four in Kansas City at the end of April.
The question now is: When injured pitchers Casey Janssen and Romero come back, what will the Jays do with Cecil?
Send the 22-year-old lefty back to the minors, or keep him in the rotation?
Or do you send Brian Tallet, who has pitched so well in his last two starts, back to the bullpen?
Surely, it's a good "problem" for the Blue Jays to have.
For now, they are 22-12, tops in the American League. The second-place Boston Red Sox are one-and-a-half games back, pending their outcome against the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday night.
Boston and Tampa Bay will play at Fenway Park in the Sunday Night Baseball game.
* * * * *
The Yankees-Orioles contest on Sunday afternoon was one of those annoying games where the skipper's mismanagement cost his team a game.
In this one, you can blame Orioles manager Dave Trembley for handing the victory to the Yankees.
34-year-old Japanese rookie Koji Uehara got the start for Baltimore, and was cruising along after giving up a first-inning home run to Mark Teixeira.
Aubrey Huff's three-run bomb gave the Orioles a 3-1 lead, and Uehara pitched five scoreless innings after the Teixeira home run.
The rookie pitcher retired the Yanks on seven pitches in the sixth inning, getting Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, and Hideki Matsui (the No. 3, 4, and 5 hitters) in a 1-2-3 inning.
So, what does Trembley do?
The Baltimore manager sent in lefty Jamie Walker to start the seventh. Walker gave up a home run to make it 3-2, but also retired two batters.
Trembley then decided to bring in righty Jim Johnson to face right-handed batter Francisco Cervelli, the Yankees' third-string catcher who had only 12 major-league at-bats (and an .083 batting average) going into the game.
So, the O's manager wanted a righty-righty matchup, even though Walker had already gotten two outs in the inning, and there were two outs and none on. Talk about over-managing!
The Yankees made Trembley pay immediately.
Cervelli beat out an infield hit. Derek Jeter does likewise.
Johnny Damon, 0-for-3 on the day, simply redeems himself by belting a three-run shot, giving New York a 5-3 lead.
Damon had hit into a double play and struck out twice against Uehara. Was Damon happy the rookie pitcher was gone from the game?
“He had me guessing and chasing all day long,” Damon told the AP of Uehara. “I wasn’t too happy with that” (The Associated Press, May 10, 2009).
The Yanks won the game, 5-3, but look at Orioles manager Dave Trembley for this one.
Look at him pulling Uehara despite the rookie's great outing through six innings. Look at him pulling Walker with none on and two outs.
And it's not like Trembley doesn't know about his bullpen's struggles. An interesting stat courtesy the AP:
In 2009, Baltimore has outscored the opposition 79-59 in the first three innings. However, the Orioles have been outscored 57-35 after the sixth inning.
Thanks Dave, for giving this one to New York.