TORONTO -- Blue Jays reliever Brett Cecil appears to have regained some of the velocity he had been missing for the past two seasons.
Cecil entered Tuesday night's game against the Indians and tossed a clean ninth inning. He hit 94 mph on the radar gun four times while also reaching 93 mph on an additional three pitches.
The 26-year-old threw a total of 11 pitches in his one inning of work and had at least a couple of more miles per hour on his sinker and fastball than he had in Spring Training.
"It kind of felt the same way in Spring Training," Cecil said on Wednesday. "It was just a little extra adrenaline, regular season game and I was hoping to get that extra bump.
"It was nice, felt really good. I don't know how the curveball was so good, I couldn't throw it for a strike in the bullpen to save my life, but in a sense that's how I like it to go. Throw it in the bullpen and usually I need a hitter up there to get my breaking stuff working and that's what happened in the game."
Cecil broke into the big leagues in 2009 and topped out at 95 mph with his fastball while averaging 91 mph in 17 starts. The velocity was comparable the following season, but by 2011 there was a noticeable dip.
The native of Maryland began topping out at 93 mph while averaging just 89 mph, according to Fangraphs. That took away some of his effectiveness and at times he would overthrow in an effort to gain extra velocity, which led to a lot of pitches being left up in the zone.
That was one reason Cecil went through the Velocity Training Program this offseason, which involves the use of weighted balls to increase strength in the shoulder. It's a program run by Jamie Evans and was used by right-hander Steve Delabar in his comeback from a fractured right elbow.
It's still early, but the results are an encouraging sign that the program has made a difference. Cecil says his shoulder feels stronger than it has in years and believes there is still room for some more improvement.
"It's helped a lot," Cecil said. "If I hadn't of done it, probably coming out of the 'pen I'd still be low 90s. But it's definitely nice to have that 94 and hopefully it goes up a few more miles an hour as we get into mid-season form a little bit down the road.
"It helps keeping the shoulder healthy as well and I have to tell you I've never felt this good for such a long stretch. I know I said it in Spring Training, but I've felt so good since Spring Training started, throwing in games, than I ever had. It's a really good feeling and I just hope it continues."
Loup not thrown for loop on Opening Day
TORONTO -- Aaron Loup got his first taste of what it's like to pitch in front of a sold-out crowd during his 1 1/3 innings of work on Tuesday night versus the Indians.
Loup managed to fight through the nerves by not allowing a run. It was Loup's first time being on the mound for Opening Day following last year's mid-season callup.
The pressure might have gotten to other second-year pitchers, but not Loup, who has an even-keel approach on the mound and never seems too rattled. But it was still an adjustment, and one that Loup's glad he now has under his belt.
"The buzz that has been around the city and the whole time I played here last year, the stadium definitely wasn't packed like that," Loup said. "To be out there in front of the fans that were rooting for the team, the excitement around the team, it was definitely fun.
"It's kind of tough. I'd be lying if I told you I wasn't excited and had a little bit of adrenaline going. But you just try to collect yourself and stay as calm as you can out there, just go out there and pitch the way you know how to pitch."
Loup received an unexpected surprise from the hometown crowd prior to the eventual 4-1 loss to Cleveland on Opening Night. When Loup was introduced, the crowd started a loud "Loooooooup" chant that couldn't help but bring a smile to the face of the middle reliever.
It's a chant that the Blue Jays have tried to start before, but Tuesday night marked the first time the crowd embraced it on their own.
"Casey Janssen and Darren Oliver, they always mess with me and when they see me they go "Looooup" and it was like 'Man, we gotta get that started in the stadium,'" Loup said. "When they introduced me last night, they did it and it took me back for a second and you go, 'Oh, that's pretty cool.' I wasn't expecting it at all."
Blanco expected to catch Dickey's next start
TORONTO -- Henry Blanco is expected to get the start behind the plate when R.A. Dickey makes his next appearance against Boston on Sunday.
J.P. Arencibia got the call for Dickey's outing on Opening Night, but the duties will now change. Blanco previously caught Dickey with the Mets in 2010 and will now receive another opportunity to work with the 2012 National League Cy Young Award winner.
Arencibia was charged with three passed balls on Tuesday night, but manager John Gibbons said the performance didn't have much of an impact on his decision on who will catch Dickey next time out.
"Not necessarily because of last night," Gibbons said. "I want to get them all in there as soon as possible. J.P. will catch until then."
Arencibia's three passed balls broke a club record but the struggles behind the plate weren't entirely unexpected considering it was his first experience with a knuckleballer in a Major League game.
Mets catcher Josh Thole had similar issues last season, when he was charged with three passed balls in one game while he also had a pair of games when he was charged with two.
Despite that, Gibbons has opted to make a change, but he declined to state whether Dickey would receive a personal catcher in the future. The Blue Jays intend to mix it up depending on when Arencibia needs a day of rest and how badly the club needs his bat in the lineup.
"We'll see how it goes," Gibbons said. "We said during Spring Training, when J.P. did a solid job with it, we want his bat in the lineup on certain nights. We'll see how it all plays out. I don't want to get all caught up in that right now. We'll see how it all develops."