JUPITER, Fla. • A new outlook, a new mentality, and a new body frame due to significant weight loss this winter has left reliever Brett Cecil with clunky, outdated mechanics.
The Cardinals’ veteran lefthander has been removed from the team’s game plans so that he work outside of competition on “synching” his mechanics with his lighter, slimmer frame, pitching coach Mike Maddux confirmed. With Maddux, bullpen coach Bryan Eversgerd, and others watching Sunday morning, Cecil went through an intensive bullpen session that focused on his arm speed and getting it in line with his new stride and footfall.
“There’s work to do to get where we want to get,” Maddux said. “And we’ll probably make better headway on the side than we would with the distraction of competing in the game. Just trying to get back to the consistent arm strike that works for him. Cece is not the first guy we’ve seen have a body transformation, and in doing this our body works differently sometimes. We have to adapt to a new frame, and that’s kind of where we are right now.”
Embracing a new diet and new workouts, like Pilates, Cecil lost at least 30 pounds this winter, and he has continued to lose weight through spring training, he said.
That has made everything about him trimmer, even on the mound.
Several years ago, Cardinals starter Lance Lynn went through a similar loss of weight and found that his center of gravity shifted and his mechanics were off at times throughout the year. The next spring he regained some of the weight to feel more familiar and consistent on the mound. Shelby Miller, a former Cardinals’ starter, reported to camp with what then-manager Mike Matheny referred to as a “beach bod,” and as a result lacked some of the flexibility necessary to keep his mechanics consistent, and his control and velocity faltered.
Cecil felt uncomfortable with is arm during his first and only Grapefruit League outing. He allowed one hit in one inning, but didn’t have the feel for his command expected.
The timing was off, Maddux and he said.
“God bless Brett for transforming himself physically the way that he did,” Maddux said. “Now we just have to get it down mechanically so it plays to his advantage on the mound. If you’re not synched-up you’re going to struggle. We’re trying to get him synched-up with the new body type that he has.”
Cecil, 32, is coming off disastrous season that included a 6.89 ERA in 40 appearances and more walks (25) than strikeouts (19). He missed a month of preparation for the season dealing with a death in the family, and helping his wife and children recover from another tragedy in the family. He was injured on the first day of the season, and he spent most of the year searching for health on the field, traction on the mound, and success somewhere.
He has two years remaining on his contract with the Cardinals, though the team is in a position this spring to fill his spot in the bullpen with someone else if Cecil does not prove effective or healthy. Maddux said already he and Cecil have watched video to identify, visually, how to overlay his mechanics onto his new frame, and the bullpen session Sunday morning was the start of putting it together on the mound.
Maddux said there is no rush to get him back into games.
His best work is going to be side work.
“First thing is to get him comfortable on that bump,” Maddux said. “Then, when he’s comfortable, we’re going to translate that into the game.”