Following his final Grapefruit League start, news broke that Toronto had made the decision to option 28 year old, Ricky Romero, to A class Dunedin.
Romero, the Blue Jays Opening Day Starter 2 years running, will make his first return to MiLB ball since being called up to the Majors in 2009. Since his debut, Toronto’s Left Handed starter has amassed a 51-43 record to go with a career ERA of 4.09 over 125 MLB games (794 IP).
After posting career highs in Wins (15-11), ERA (2.92), Innings Pitched (225) and Strikeouts (178) in 2011, Romero struggled in 2012 as the pressure on the young ace began to mount following injuries to 3 of the teams 5 arms in the Starting Rotation.
After beating the Miami Marlins on June 22nd, Romero would have to wait until September 24th before getting back into the win column as the Blue Jays defeated the Baltimore Orioles, 9-5 at Camden Yards.
During this 15 start stretch, Romero would lose 13 games, post a 7.42 ERA and walk more batters (53) than strikeout (49) over the course of 78 innings. All numbers aside, Romero’s confidence would be what ended up getting hit the hardest.
2013 provided Romero with a fresh start and a new spot in the Pitching Rotation for the Blue Jays. Moving from 1′st to 5th, many thought would help Romero regain his focus as a fair amount of pressure was taken off the former All Star.
Instead of rebounding in Grapefruit League action, Romero turned in a 6.23 ERA over 13 innings of work, walking 10 batters and allowing 17 hits ( a WHIP of 2.08) in 5 games.
In between his 4th and 5th start, Romero tried tinkering with his mechanics and placement on the mound during a MiLB game at the Bobby Mattick complex. The adjustments didn’t turn out in Romero’s favor as Pittsburgh’s minor leaguers hammered the former Ace casting an even darker shadow over Romero’s already troublesome spring.
Despite sticking to their guns and proclaiming Romero as their 5th starter come Opening day, the decision to address his mechanics that late into Spring Training only had people guessing at what the team truly had in store for Ricky, who could feel the clubs 6th starter, J.A. Happ, breathing down his neck.
At the time of Romero’s demotion, Happ had pitched a dominant 19 innings allowing a mere 4 Earned runs with a 14/3 strikeout to walk ratio over 6 games of Grapefruit League action.
Despite surrendering 19 hits and a .264 opponents batting average, Happ had managed to work himself out of trouble en route to recording a 1.89 Spring Training ERA.
For Blue Jays fans, the decision to go with Happ come April 2nd appears to be an easy choice as the battle for the final spot in the rotation has been a speculated subject all spring.
As for Romero, when asked why he was being optioned all the way down to A ball, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos simply stated that the organization wants Romero to get his work in around a warmer climate.
Perhaps the decision was made with the intentions of a complete mechanical overhaul for Romero who at this point, could benefit from time away from the pressure and the spotlight.
The Blue Jays have yet to lay out a timetable for Romero’s return to the MLB level as it will probably be performance driven.
At this point, with Drabek and Hutchison likely out until July or August, Starting Pitching could be an area of weakness for a Toronto club that intends on competing for their first playoff berth since 1993.
Following a clean 1-2-3 inning during Tuesday’s tilt vs Pittsburgh, perhaps Dustin McGowan’s stock just rose a little bit but hey, lets not get ahead of ourselves here.