Brett Cecil fitting in nicely with the Cardinals

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By: Danny Gallagher

Canadian Baseball Network

JUPITER, Fla. -- If the prowess Brett Cecil demonstrated as a table tennis player in the Cardinals' clubhouse this week is any indication, then his change in scenery is headed in the right direction.

After close to eight seasons with the Blue Jays, the left-handed reliever became a free agent following the 2016 season and took advantage of a huge pay day with the Cardinals.

"It's an adjustment switching teams,'' Cecil said as he folded his arms at his stall. "You have to get used to new teammates, new surroundings but it's working out pretty good. It's been awesome. Everybody has been good to me.''

Cecil confirmed that he did indeed receive a three-year offer from the Blue Jays in November, but he didn't want to get into the specifics of the financial terms. 

The Cardinals blew him away with a four-year pact worth $30.5-million. The annual average stipend doubles his 2016 salary of $3.8-million. He got a signing bonus of $1-million and he received full no-trade clause protection.

"We weren't necessarily looking for four years and we didn't have any amount of money in mind when we talked with teams,'' Cecil said. "We talked to a number of teams. Some teams had priorities for a left-hander, some didn't.''

If Cecil had his druthers, he would have loved to have suited up for either the Washington Nationals or the Baltimore Orioles because he lives only 35 minutes outside D.C. It seems neither team had him on their "priorities'' list. 

"I talked to Jason Grilli a fair amount about free agency,'' Cecil said. "He's one of my better friends with the Blue Jays. He's a true professional. I liked to pick his brains a lot, but he didn't try to convince me to stay.''

The Cardinals pursued Cecil after southpaw Zach Duke required Tommy John surgery last October, a procedure that will sideline him for the entire 2017 season. Cecil showed up in St. Louis for his introductory news conference with no eye glasses, giving fans a different perspective on how he actually looks, especially in civilian clothes.

"My regular glasses, not these big things I have on now, had broken and I didn't really have time to get new ones,'' Cecil explained. "I can still see without glasses. I just squint.''

Cecil won't forget his first win as a major-league pitcher in Oakland and he won't forget his first save, also in Oakland. And the memories of going to the post-season two years in succession with the Blue Jays are indelible in his mind.

"It's so tough to get to the playoffs, so tough to get to the World Series,'' Cecil said.

Now that he has switched leagues, Cecil won't have to worry about figuring out how to get Brett Gardner of the Yankees out.

"He's the toughest guy I've ever faced,'' Cecil admitted. "He's hard to strike out and he's hard to get out.  When you come in from the bullpen, you're looking for a punchout but he's very tough to begin with. 

"He always seems to get the bat on good pitches. He fights off the good pitches in a lefty vs. lefty matchup. He makes good contact. There's no slow grounders or soft liners with him. I'd rather face a big power hitter than him.''

Danny Gallagher

Danny was born in Ted Lindsay's hometown of Renfrew, Ont. but his roots are in nearby Douglas. He played 27 consecutive seasons of top-level amateur baseball in the senior ranks in Ontario, Saskatchewan and Quebec and thrived on organizing events himself, the major one being the highly successful 1983 Canadian senior men's tournament in Sudbury. He began covering the Montreal Expos in 1988 when he joined the Montreal Daily News. Later, he was the Expos beat writer for the Ottawa Sun and Associated Press. He has written four baseball books, including Remembering the Montreal Expos, which he co-authored with Bill Young of Hudson, Que. Gallagher and Young are currently working on a book about the ill-fated 1994 Expos squad. Gallagher can be reached here: dannogallagher@rogers.com