Romero Not Ready For The Bigs, And He Never Was

BY @CHRIS_TOMAN

Only two starts, 4 1/3 innings pitched, and the Blue Jays have seen enough of Ricky Romero, as the club optioned the left-hander to Triple-A Buffalo on Thursday. The move comes 4 1/3 innings too late but it was absolutely the right one to make.

Romero doesn't belong in the big leagues - at least not right now. Josh Johnson's injury forced the team's hand and the club quickly reacted by putting its own interests above what's right for Romero’s career.

The club wanted him to overhaul his delivery, but the core reason Romero is not in the big leagues is his inability to throw strikes and compete at the highest level. And after one minor-league outing, it's really easy to question the risk-reward decision the Blue Jays ultimately made by bringing him back to Toronto.

Perhaps the club saw a new delivery and sound mechanics that it liked, but wouldn’t you want to give him more time to work on things in Florida? Wouldn’t you want to see him have continued success in the minors, above Class-A ball, before putting him back in a big-league rotation, regardless of how well he may have looked during side sessions? This is not just any other pitcher. This is a player who went from the 2012 Opening Day starter to Class-A Dunedin reclamation project over a 12-month span. That doesn’t happen too often.

And, to be sure, I’m certainly not saying more time in the minors working with pitching coordinator Dane Johnson is something that is magically going to correct him. All I’m saying is this process appears to have been rushed because of Johnson’s injury, and that’s not fair to Romero.

While Romero most certainly spent time working with Johnson on his delivery and correcting the mechanical flaws the organization spotted, the fact remains he only made one start in the minors before his first big-league outing of the season. It's easy to second guess the team when you don't see what's happening behind the scenes - and Romero is a guy I'm sure was going the extra mile to try to get himself back on track - but it just never felt right.

And then it didn’t look right.

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Before doing more harm than good, the Blue Jays made the right move by optioning him to a place no player in his position wants to be. Keeping him around would have done neither party any good and would have likely been delaying the inevitable.

It's sad to think this is where Romero's career is at. It has been shocking to watch Romero's career fall off a cliff after his All-Star season in 2011 and the two promising years he had before that. As a fan of the game, it’s impossible not to feel bad for him. The fact that he’s a well-liked person, who, by all accounts, has put in the work to try to rediscover his old form, makes his descent into the abyss that much more disappointing.

The 28-year-old Romero did not help the team over his two starts, both of which were losses, and his performance likely didn’t help him out mentally, either. This is a player who has acknowledged confidence issues based on last season's debacle, which saw the strike zone, among other things, elude him, and it happened all over again. He told reporters after Wednesday’s game that he thought he did better than the numbers indicate and he feels good about himself, but it’s not like he was going to throw himself under the bus when he knew his leash was extremely short. He found out just how short that leash actually was not too long after his start.

Romero is unlike the cast of Triple-A retreads the club signed to minor-league deals in the offseason – he’s a future investment who the club ought to hope gets right. At the very least, the Blue Jays need to put him in the best possible position to succeed, and at the start of the year the belief was that that place was in the minors. Today, nothing has changed in that regard.

If Romero is someone the club, which owes him a guaranteed $15.6 million AFTER this season with a $13.1 million club option for 2016, really intends to get right and have as a part of the future, it needs to take its time with him – there is no question about that. The goal with Romero was two-fold: the team wanted him to help the club win now, but they also had a plan for him to correct what needed fixing down in the minors. The latter should come before all else.

Instead of juggling Romero up and down, the team, and Romero, is better off having someone from the Triple-A scrapheap burn up some innings, and the Blue Jays dipped into the Bisons roster on Thursday by bringing up 40-year-old Ramon Ortiz and reliever Mickey Storey.

Barry Davis reported via Twitter that Ortiz could get the ball Friday against Boston with Brandon Morrow being pushed back to Sunday with back issues, which was first reported by Sportsnet. With two off-days next week, the Blue Jays don’t need to fill Romero/Johnson’s spot until later in the month but the club also needs to find a replacement for J.A. Happ. Regardless of its record, this team is not in a good place right now.

Wednesday's Outing

Romero began his second start of the season by throwing three consecutive balls and it didn't get any better after that in what was another abbreviated outing.

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The lefty recorded one out and threw 29 pitches before manager John Gibbons trotted out to the mound and yanked him with the bases loaded in the first inning.

After all the disastrous starts Romero had last season, his third-of-an-inning pitched Wednesday was the shortest outing of his career, in his 127th major league start.

Romero only went four innings in his first start in an outing which was marred by one bad inning. He was solid for three frames before collapsing in the fourth. On Wednesday, he collapsed right from the get-go against the Rays.

The biggest concern is his inability to throw the ball where he wants to throw it. And Romero hasn't exactly done himself any favors to win over trust, when, quite frankly, it doesn't look like he even trusts himself (even with the support of firecracker Brett Lawrie).

The majors is not a place where Romero should be experimenting on a new delivery – especially not when the bullpen was forced to work overtime and throw 13 2/3 innings combined over his two outings.

Over the two starts Romero made, his numbers are as follows:

4 1/3 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 5 BB, 4 SO, 25 batters faced, 54/99 pitches for strikes, 12.46 ERA.

This, of course, is coming after Romero was one of the worst starting pitchers in baseball in 2012 by any statistical measure following a strong three-year run from 2009-11.

Romero walked 12.7 percent of the batters he faced last season, which was the highest mark among American League qualified starters. In two starts this season - yes, the sample is incredibly small - he's at 20 percent. But if he can't throw strikes, he shouldn't be in the big leagues.

We might not see Romero for a long time and I hope the club doesn’t rush him back because the internal options it has aren’t exactly what one would describe as appealing. The next time Romero should be back is when he’s ready, not when the club finds itself in another pinch.

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