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April 03. 2012 11:26PM

Kevin Gray's On Baseball: Young pitchers the hallmark of Fisher Cats team


From left are pitchers Chad Jenkins, Deck McGuire, and Drew Hutchison, after Fisher Cats practice on Tuesday at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium in Manchester. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)

MANCHESTER -- Just when it seemed the starting rotation couldn't get any stronger, the Fisher Cats added a 15-game winner in the majors.

In a surprise move, Toronto optioned Brett Cecil to Double-A New Hampshire and promoted Joel Carreno directly to the Blue Jays on Tuesday. Carreno, who led the Fisher Cats with 134 2/3 innings last season, had a good reason to skip Tuesday's meet-and-greet with season ticket holders: he was on a flight to Cleveland, where he'll start Sunday against Derek Lowe.

Cecil won a team-high 15 games for the Blue Jays in 2010 and owns a career 26-24 record (4.64 ERA) in the majors. The lefty had been penciled in as Toronto's No. 3 starter before getting lit up for seven runs and 11 hits against the Tigers on Monday.

The 25-year-old joins a Fisher Cats starting rotation loaded with power arms. Righty Drew Hutchison went 14-5 (2.53 ERA) while climbing through Toronto's farm system last year. He'll be joined in the rotation by first-round picks Chad Jenkins and Deck McGuire, followed by Cecil and newcomer Ryan Tepera.

“The pitching staff is unbelievable. Lots of good arms. I look forward to getting started,” said Jenkins, who pitches Friday, “because it's going to be a lot of fun. (Cecil) already knows how to win at the big leagues. I'm sure he knows how to win here.”

Lack of command, not velocity, has been the concern regarding Cecil, who has a strong relationship with Fisher Cats pitching coach Tom Signore. The lefty worked with Signore during part of last season at Triple-A Las Vegas.

“Let's face it. He's probably not going to be real happy about having to come back to the minors,” Signore said. “This is a good place to get your stuff together. I'm confident he'll get his game together and everything will be fine.”

McGuire threw a bullpen session on Tuesday, along with relievers Danny Farquhar and lefty Aaron Loop. Farquhar, who appeared in three games for the Blue Jays last season, appears to be throwing his submarine-style sinkers lower than ever. Loop threw an array of fastballs and sliders that made onlookers shake their heads.

Signore, asked which pitcher has provided the biggest “Wow” factor,” this spring, couldn't decide. Even Tepera, the club's No. 5 starter, has thrown a no-hitter in the minors.

“Who doesn't give a ‘Wow' factor? My expectations are very high. If we don't perform well on the mound, I'm probably doing something wrong,” Signore said.

Cecil took in stride the news of his demotion and told reporters he preferred the “true environment” of pitching at New Hampshire over the hitter-friendly ballpark at Las Vegas. Cecil first pitched for the Fisher Cats in 2008 and later returned to the annual Granite State Baseball Dinner.

“I've had a month to figure it out. Any pitcher should be able to figure it out by then,” said Cecil, tagged for 13 runs in his past two spring starts. “I really gave them no choice and really didn't help myself out any.”

Fisher Cats manager Sal Fasano is hoping Cecil can revamp his career and get the Fishers off to a great start.

“Maybe it'll be good to be in a new environment and gets some confidence back here at Double-A. Maybe he can help us, and we can help him at the same time,” Fasano said.

Toronto's rotation consists of four ex-Fisher Cats, including 2011 All-Star Ricky Romero. Carreno, Henderson Alvarez and Kyle Drabek officially were named starters this week. Alvarez will pitch Toronto's home opener against the Red Sox.

Staff writer Kevin Gray covers pro baseball for the New Hampshire Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News. His email address is kgray@unionleader.com.


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