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Brett Cecil: A Blue Jay fan now. (MIKE CASSESE/REUTERS)
Brett Cecil: A Blue Jay fan now. (MIKE CASSESE/REUTERS)

Cecil finally purged of Yankee 'brainwashing' Add to ...

There is a picture at his parent's home in Maryland that makes Brett Cecil squirm.

It features a very young Cecil, around six months old, decked out head to foot in a New York Yankees uniform.

"My mom, my grandmother and grandfather, that whole on side of the family were Yankee fans for some odd reason," said Cecil, the emerging left-hander for the Toronto Blue Jays. "I don't know why. I was brainwashed pretty young."

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With that kind of familial pressure Cecil said it was no wonder that he grew up on the dark side, idolizing the Bronx Bombers all the way through high school and even college.

"Now I got a new favourite team and a new group of favourite guys," Cecil proclaims.

Cecil will get the opportunity to put his new loyalties to the test Friday night as he is slated to start for the Blue Jays (31-24) in the first of a three-game series against the Yankees (34-20) at what should be a rollicking Rogers Centre.

It is always an event when the Yankees, the defending World Series champions, come to town and crowds in excess of 25,000 are anticipated for all three games.

Blue Jays president Paul Beeston was perturbed Thursday when he realized that the walk-up for Sunday's game might be adversely affected by yet another closure of two of the city's main highways to accommodate the Ride for Heart charity-fundraiser event.

And this after Blue Jays had to relocate a big weekend series against the Phillies to Philadelphia from the Rogers Centre in Toronto because of G20 security concerns at the end of the month,

"We don't get any breaks no matter what - and I ain't complaining," Beeston bellowed over the phone. "But I didn't realize that both the Gardiner Expressway and the Don Valley Expressway are closed on Sunday.

"It's hard to have decent crowds when nobody can get there."

It is the first meeting this season between the American League East rivals and the games take on added importance for the Blue Jays after Toronto lost two of three earlier in the week to the Tampa Bay Rays, the division leaders.

While the Blue Jays have dropped into fourth place, a full 5 1/2 games behind the front-running Rays heading into play on Thursday, they are in third spot in the wild-card race, just 3 1/2 games behind the Yankees.

Toronto pitcher Shaun Marcum said the New York series is key, especially after the way the Blue Jays lost the final two games of the Tampa Bay set in such disheartening fashion, carrying a lead into the ninth inning on both occasions, only to see the Rays score a slew of runs to win.

"We've got to come out ready to play," Marcum said. "We're behind Tampa but we're behind the Yankees, too, for the wild card.

"We come out this weekend and play well against those guys and we can be right back in the hunt."

It won't be easy as the Yankees are on a roll, having won their past five games.

Last season New York won 12 of 18 games against the Jays, the most success they enjoyed against any other team other than the Baltimore Orioles, whom they beat 13 times.

As far as Cecil is concerned, all those facts and figures can be hurled out the window.

"They were world champions last year," he said. "I think the pressure's on them to uphold that. That was last year. This year's this year."

ON DECK

NOTES The Yankees come to town riding a five-game winning streak. And veteran catcher Jorge Posada has just returned to the lineup after missing more than two weeks with a fractured right foot. Posada can't catch yet and was the DH for Wednesday's game against the Baltimore Orioles. With Francisco Cervelli hitting .294, there is a feeling that Posada, 38, would be better as a full-time DH with Cervelli handling most of the catching duties. Posada does not agree. "I'm not a DH yet," he said. … Robinson Cano, the Yankees second baseman, was the American League player of the week last week. In six games, Cano hit a major-league best .565 (13-for-23) with a grand slam, five runs scored and nine runs batted in. … With the retirement of Ken Griffey Jr., New York's Alex Rodriguez becomes the active home run leader with 591. Griffey finished with 630. Rodriguez is seventh on the all-time list.

NEXT Friday v. the New York Yankees, at Rogers Centre, 7:07 p.m. EDT.

STARTERS Toronto LHP Brett Cecil (5-2, 3.81) against New York RHP A.J. Burnett (6-2, 3.28).

TV Rogers Sportsnet.

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