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PHI@TOR: Cecil hurls four solid innings vs. Phillies

After a poor showing in Spring Training forced Brett Cecil to start the season in the Minors, the left-hander will finally make his season debut on Sunday afternoon for the Blue Jays.

Cecil, originally expected to be the club's No. 3 starter, sputtered in Spring Training and -- with other viable options for their starting rotation -- the Jays chose to send him to Double-A New Hampshire when it came time to set their roster. Now, with many of those "other" options nursing injuries, Cecil gets the call as the Blue Jays look to finish off a three-game sweep of the Phillies at Rogers Centre.

"The most important thing is how to pitch," Cecil said. "... That's really the biggest thing I've learned through this year and a half of just straight struggling, how to pitch. I thought I knew how to pitch before, and I did somewhat. But now, I not only know how to use my pitches, now I know how to use them against certain hitters."

The southpaw will be filling in for Brandon Morrow, one of three Blue Jays starters to suffer an injury in the past week. After Morrow left his start on Monday with a strained left oblique, Kyle Drabek departed his Wednesday start early with a small tear to his ulnar collateral ligament and Drew Hutchison lasted just nine pitches on Friday before leaving with a sprained right elbow.

Morrow and Hutchison both landed on the 15-day disabled list, while Drabek could be looking at undergoing Tommy John surgery for the second time in his career, which would end his season. With so much doubt in the rotation right now, a solid outing could go a long way for Cecil in his attempt to again secure a spot in Toronto's rotation.

"I never want to take a guy's spot because he's hurt," Cecil said. "I want to feel like I earned it -- and I do feel like I earned it and I do deserve to be up here. But it's just a terrible thing when a guy goes down with an injury. Obviously, I know we need starting pitching. Hopefully, I can get in there and get off to a good start."

In the series finale, Cecil will be squaring off against Phillies right-hander Kyle Kendrick, who also finds himself in the starting rotation as a result of injuries. Kendrick has been in and out of the rotation this season as the team has needed him -- appearing in 14 games, while making nine starts.

After turning in six straight starts of allowing two or fewer earned runs, Kendrick has struggled in his last two outings, conceding 11 tallies over just 9 2/3 innings. In his last trip to the mound, Kendrick quickly spotted the American League-worst Twins a 5-0 lead and never recovered.

"Everything was fine," Kendrick said after that outing, in which he ultimately allowed six runs on eight hits in just four innings of work. "I was getting ahead. I just wanted to be aggressive, and they swung the bats well. There was nothing I could do."

Phillies: Ruiz likely to miss finale
• Catcher Carlos Ruiz is expected to miss his second straight game on Sunday, as he continues to nurse an oblique strain suffered in Friday's series opener.

Though Ruiz classified the injury as more of a "cramp," the team is calling it an oblique strain for now. Ruiz took batting practice prior to Saturday's game and hopes to avoid a stint on the disabled list. But assistant general manager Scott Proefrock said the club would evaluate Ruiz's condition when the team returns to Philadelphia after this series.

"I had an oblique problem in Colorado last year -- or a couple years ago -- and I know how it feels," said Ruiz, who missed 21 days in 2009 with an oblique strain. "I think this is more like a cramp -- you know, when you pull a hamstring. This is more like a cramp. That's what I feel. They want to make sure that I'm OK. [Saturday] when I woke up, maybe I was a little sore. But I feel good. I'm ready to go. We'll see how it goes."

Blue Jays: Farrell trying to find pitching replacements
• Even with Cecil filling the void left by Morrow, Blue Jays manager John Farrell still has two other spots to fill in his starting rotation in the coming week.

Though Farrell hasn't officially named any replacements yet, two likely candidates are Triple-A right-hander Jesse Chavez and Jays long reliever Carlos Villanueva. Villanueva, who tossed four scoreless innings in relief on Friday, also transitioned from the bullpen to the starting rotation after a series of injuries last season.

"[Villanueva is] in the mix, yeah," Farrell said. "Yet, we haven't determined who's going to start on Wednesday. I don't have anything more definitive than that for you right now."

Worth noting
• Yunel Escobar, who hit his fourth home run of the season on Saturday, is just 1-for-16 in his career against Kendrick.

• The Phillies are just 3-5 in the first eight games of this nine-game road trip, and are 3-11 in their last 14 games overall.

• Toronto leads the overall head-to-head series against the Phillies, 20-18, since Interleague Play started in 1997. Comments