It was important for Gibbons to get Cecil back on the mound after he and Aaron Loup had combined to torch a 3-1 lead the night before. Prior to the final game of the series, Gibbons had met with his two-day closer to inform him to be ready for more of his old setup role. In that light, it was important to Gibbons that he allowed Cecil to pitch as soon as possible.
“It was a three-run game, it was a big inning, it was the meat of their order,” Gibbons said. “I wanted to get him back out there. Then Castro did his thing.”
“Ever since college, I’ve always felt better the second day I pitch, the second day in a row,” Cecil said of his role as a closer at Maryland. “The same thing tonight, I felt way better, felt sharper. Hopefully just build off that one and keep it going, keep building arm strength and hopefully the velocity keeps going up. Just felt way better in the bullpen, way better on the mound than (Wednesday).”
The Jays won this opening series 2-1 against the Yankees with weather so miserable it’s hard to tell what the team has either hitting or pitching. The Jays relied on one big inning Thursday as they had on opening day, scoring four in the second inning against CC Sabathia.
The big rally was highlighted by solid approaches by Jay hitters. Edwin Encarnacion led off beathing the shift with a soft grounder to right. Kevin Pillar went down out of the strike zone to get a Sabathia breaking ball and line it into left for a run. Devon Travis took advantage of the infield back and scored a run with a grounder to second. Jose Reyes then bounced a single the opposite way for the final run.
Norris had already appeared at Yankee Stadium last season when he was recalled in the month of September, pitching one inning. So he’d already done the wide-eyed rookie stuff.
On this night, with his mother and father in attendance and wearing short sleeves he threw 97 pitches, going 5 2/3 innings, allowing solo shots to Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira in the sixth. Norris had pitched out of a jam n the fourth with two on and nobody out.
“It’s huge going out there,” Norris said of the fact he already has pitched in the Bronx. “Obviously you’re still going to have a little bit of nerves and anxiousness, but it’s still good knowing you’ve been here before and faced a lineup that’s similar to this one.
“It feels weird for me to pitch in sleeves, so I just have to keep everything the same. The only thing is it’s tough to grip the ball. You’re always blowing on your hands trying to get a grip using the rosin and stuff. That’s a battle in itself, but everyone who toes the rubber has to do that.”
Norris handed over a 5-3 lead to 20-year-old Roberto Osuna, who escaped the sixth with a strikeout of Stephen Drew. With Castro moving to closer, Osuna has taken over the responsibilities Castro had for the first two games. The Jays still have four relievers that have not seen action.
In the seventh, his first full inning, the young Mexican reliever faced the tying run at the plate in Rodriguez. The day before, Osuna’s first major-league batter had also been the Yankee slugger. On that night he struck him out and then rolled the ball to the Jays’ dugout as a souvenir. On this night, Osuna struck him out again and then put an exclamation mark on it by fanning Carlos Beltran.
Then Gibbons’ new bullpen structure went to work. Cecil entered for the eighth inning and walked a batter with two strikeouts. The weather was cold but did not have the horizontal rain like the night before. Plus, he entered with a clean slate. In the ninth, the unlikely story of Castro continued. The Jays have played three games and the lanky Castro has appeared in all three with a save.
“It was a huge experience,” Castro said of pitching at Yankee Stadium. “I hope to continue doing the things I’ve been doing so far. Sometimes I have to sit down and figure out what has happened. I’m pleased that they trust me and it gives me the confidence to go out and pitch.”
Baseball is about adjustments, and Gibbons is not afraid to make them. He promised that his two youngsters would not be asked to pitch on Friday.
But it’s all about making the right adjustment.