Reliever Brett Cecil on Saturday called his struggles with his new team, the St. Louis Cardinals, “embarrassing.”
Cecil, who signed a four-year, $30.5-million free-agent contract with the Cardinals in November, is 0-1 with a 5.79 ERA in a National League-high 20 games. He has issued seven walks and permitted 20 hits in 14 1/3 innings, and left-handed batters are hitting .464 against him (13-for-28) with three home runs.
In Cecil’s career, left-handed batters have a .234 average.
“I’d say it’s more embarrassing than anything,” the 30-year-old Cecil said. “I know I have a good track record. Obviously, I know I can get guys out. These are struggles I’ve dealt with before.
“But coming to a new team, nobody really knows you. Especially coming from a different league, nobody really knows you. ... But right now, it just feels embarrassing. You sign that contract, and you’re expected to come in here and fill a role and do a job. You’re not able to do it, and it’s embarrassing.”
Cecil allowed a bases-empty homer to Tommy La Stella in the seventh inning Friday, and it was the difference in the Cardinals’ 3-2 loss to the Chicago Cubs. On April 6, Cecil surrendered a three-run homer in the seventh to the Cubs’ Kyle Schwarber in a 6-4 loss.
Cecil knows what’s going wrong.
“I’m flying open,” he said. “They showed me some video from ’15 and this year ... and it just looks like my front foot is a little bit more open than in the past. That tells me I’m not staying back long enough and not getting everything behind the ball. Same issues I’ve dealt with in the past. It’s just a matter of fixing them.”
Cecil said his unfamiliarity with the National League also is playing a role.
“There’s also small things, (like) me not knowing the hitters. That will just come from time,” said Cecil, who pitched eight seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays of the American League. “But as far as just controlling stuff that I can control, that’s stuff I need to do better. Stay closed a little bit longer. It makes every pitch, whether it gets hit, whether it doesn’t, a lot more effective and makes it a much better pitch.”
Cecil recalled 2015 when he was plagued by a similar issue. He had a 5.96 ERA on June 21, but acquitted himself spectacularly from that point and finished with a 2.48 ERA. Cecil didn’t allow an earned run in his final 37 games and 31 2/3 innings
“I’ve just got to be able to slow the game down when I get out there,” Cecil said. “I can do it in the pen all day, but you let the game speed up on you, and then you just fall right back into place where you were. So it’s really up to me to slow the game down and really focus on staying back. It’s just a matter of me doing it.”
Cecil is without two key people who used to help him break out of slumps: Toronto bullpen coach Dane Johnson and pitching coach Pete Walker.
“Dane Johnson was there when I got drafted. He was the pitching coordinator in the minor leagues, and he knew me very well,” Cecil said.
In 2015, Cecil said he “threw everything out the window.”
“I just focused on pitch by pitch,” he said. “I don’t think I’m to that point yet, but it’s getting close. So I need to change something before it gets to that point, or maybe it will get to that point, and it will be good.”
Cecil said he is trying to adopt a devil-may-care attitude.
“It sounds bad to say, but you almost get to a point where you’re just like, ‘I don’t give a (care). I don’t care what happens. I’m going to throw every pitch with conviction. The result is the result,’” Cecil said. “You worry too much about the result, you don’t focus on the pitch, that bad result happens.”
Cecil said nothing is wrong with him from a physical standpoint.
“I’ve been in 19, 20 games, and I’ve never felt better. Being in this many games early in the season, I’ve never felt better,” he said. “Nothing physically is going on at all.”
Cardinals 5, Cubs 3
Carlos Martinez improved to 3-3, Jedd Gyorko homered and Tommy Pham had two RBIs as St. Louis evened the three-game series with a win over Jon Lester and Chicago.
By the numbers
The game was witnessed by a Busch Stadium III record crowd of 47,882. ... Seung Hwan Oh pitched the ninth for his 10th save. ... Gyorko home run in the fourth inning was his eighth of the season. ... Dexter Fowler walked three times. ... Yadier Molina stole his 50th career base. ... Magneuris Sierra posted his first career RBI with a hit against Pedro Strop in the sixth. ... St. Louis climbed back to a season-high five games above .500. ... Cubs rookie Ian Happ made his major-league debut and recorded his first hit, a homer in the seventh against Martinez.
Adam Wainwright (2-3, 6.37 ERA) vs. Jake Arrieta (4-2, 5.35 ERA), 1:15 p.m. Sunday.