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August 1, 2014

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LAS VEGAS 51s:

Cecil trying to make first trip to Vegas a quick one

Top pitching prospect could get big league call-up sooner rather than later

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AP PHOTO

Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Brett Cecil throws in the first inning against the New York Yankees in a spring training baseball game in Dunedin, Fla., Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2009.

It makes sense, but it doesn't.

How does a young pitcher with a more-than-live arm live to be 22 years old and never leave the east coast? Somehow it should have happened, right?

A baseball tournament, road trip, aunt's wedding -- something should have gotten him out here at least once.

"Nope, before we landed in Las Vegas the farthest west I had ever been was Kentucky," said 51s pitcher Brett Cecil. "I've been keeping busy with baseball my whole life, I've never had time to do anything else. I'm from Maryland, so I'm a long way from home."

Even throughout a career that has included pitching for the University of Maryland and two years in the Toronto Blue Jays' Triple-A system, Cecil has never had a reason to make it west of the Mississippi River. The 2007 first round pick has played his entire professional career in New York. Minor league ball was restricted to the east coast, as was the Blue Jays' spring training held in Florida.

But with Toronto's Triple-A affiliation now in Las Vegas, replacing the departed Los Angeles Dodgers this season, Cecil is now calling Las Vegas his temporary residence.

So far, he likes it.

"This city is a huge difference from any other I've been to," Cecil said. "I was telling everybody back home it's a city with a lot of 'Wows.' There are just so many things to do, things you can't do anywhere else."

Cecil, considered by many as Toronto's top pitching prospect, should enjoy his Las Vegas stay while he can. He may not be here for long.

The starting pitcher has developed steadily over the past two seasons, posting a 2.41 ERA and recording 185 strikeouts to just 52 walks. A fast-ball thrower who lives in the low-90s, Cecil has continued to add control to his pitches while also working on speeding up his delivery to the plate. His ability to make changes to his game on the fly continues to impress everyone he works with.

"He's not really struggled much," said 51s pitching coach Dave LaRoche. "We make changes with him that other people would have to take a lot of time with. He changes things very quickly and doesn't skip a beat. He's got a chance to be very, very good."

Still, Cecil admits he's got a lot to learn before he's ready to fit in with a major league roster. He got a taste of that last month during spring training, when he found himself on the nerves of some of Toronto's veteran hurlers.

Cecil thought arriving at the weight room at 7 a.m. was plenty early, but his workouts were long enough that he'd still be there as veteran guys began coming in to start their routine. Blue Jays pitcher Jesse Litsch ended up pulling Cecil aside to give him a little advice.

"He came up to me and said, 'Hey, if you want to do some of this stuff, get here earlier when there aren't so many people here,'" Cecil said. "So I started getting up at six, getting there by 6:15. I definitely got a lot better response from those guys, they didn't have to say anything. I just knew they were a lot happier with me than they were at first."

It's that type of work ethic that, despite being 22 and in Las Vegas for the first time, should keep Cecil's mind in Cashman Field and off the shiny lights sitting just a few blocks away. That said, Cecil says he's received the 'no casinos' speech from just about everyone -- his family, relatives and manager Mike Basso.

LaRoche, whose son Andy was with the 51s from 2006-08, says he isn't worried about his young prospect. But if Cecil starts showing up with closed eyes in the morning, he will be.

Cecil had a luke-warm start to this season, surrendering two earned runs on five hits in four innings, earning a no decision against Salt Lake Monday. He may get the nod for the 51s home opener Friday against Colorado Springs.

"They're all adults now, I won't ever see them that late because I'm not a night person," LaRoche said. "If I see he's looking shaky too many times in the morning, then I'll start worrying."

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