Blue Jays 5 Rays 1
TORONTO — Toronto Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston insists he’s not worrying about the ebb and flow of Roy Halladay trade talks, and that’s probably a good thing for someone with so many other things to keep an eye on these days.
Before watching Brett Cecil make a third straight impressive start, throwing seven innings of one-run ball in a 5-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday afternoon, Gaston was musing about the possibility of going to a six-man rotation by mid-August.
Cecil and fellow rookie lefty Mark Rzepczynski are both rapidly creeping up on the 150-inning limit the team would like to impose on them, and the Blue Jays aren’t exactly rife with candidates to fill in for them once they hit the limit.
Some help could come Friday in Oakland, when Scott Richmond of North Vancouver, B.C., is tentatively set to return from a shoulder injury and then there’s Shaun Marcum (elbow surgery), who is also closing in on a return, possibly next month.
How much they can contribute is a question mark, so even without the uncertainty about Halladay’s future, covering the team’s remaining innings this season is definitely an area that needs attention.
At least the 23-year-old Cecil (4-1) is doing his part to leave an impression, striking out seven and pushing his shutout streak to 18 innings before Carl Crawford’s solo shot in the sixth, helping the Blue Jays (48-51) bounce back after blowing an eight-run lead in Saturday’s 10-9 loss in 12 innings.
“He’s pitching well,” said Gaston. “I’m proud of the way they came back and played because (Saturday) was a tough day for all of us in the way we lost . . . and Cecil set the tone for us in the way he pitched.”
Cecil said he’s feeling fine despite shouldering a fairly heavy workload.
“The arm feels great,” said Cecil. “I knew they were going to limit my innings this year a little bit, but I’m just going to go out there with the same mentality every time I get the ball and hopefully give them six, maybe seven good innings and go from there.”
Scott Rolen hit a three-run shot in the fourth, another run scored on a Vernon Wells double-play grounder in the sixth and Marco Scutaro added an RBI single in the seventh as the Blue Jays completed a trying and emotional homestand at 4-5 before a crowd of 30,610.
Twice during the past week fans bid a prospective farewell to Halladay, the biggest prize available ahead of the July 31 trade deadline, and they could see a vastly remade team by the time their team returns from a six-game road trip to Seattle and Oakland.
ESPN reported on its website that the Blue Jays turned down an offer from the Philadelphia Phillies of lefty J.A. Happ along with triple-A prospects Michael Taylor, an outfielder, pitcher Carlos Carrasco and shortstop Jason Donald for Halladay.
That comes after the Phillies rejected a Toronto request for Happ, double-A starter Kyle Drabek and single-A outfielder Dominic Brown for the ace right-hander.