When the Toronto Blue Jays announced their first batch of September call-ups, many people were surprised to hear that Ricky Romero‘s name was on the list.
Romero, 28, was the Blue Jays first round pick (6th overall) in the 2005 amateur draft and as most already know his fall from grace has been tragic. He was an All-Star for Toronto in 2011 and finished the season with an ERA under three in 225 innings pitched. But he suddenly and mysteriously lost his game during the 2012 baseball season. Romero continued to look worse and worse as the season progressed and finished the 2012 campaign with a disturbingly low -1.4 rWAR.
This is where the story starts to get interesting. The Blue Jays gave Romero another shot in spring training this year but his control issues were still apparent, which kept him off the big-league club to start the season. Romero then spent the next month with roving pitching coach Dane Johnson and the word was that Ricky was “working on his mechanics“. Optimists hoped Romero could re-invent himself in similar fashion to the way that Roy Halladay did after Mel Queen was called out of retirement to assist the then 23-year-old Doc. But Romero is 28, not 23. And I’m sure you’ve heard the idiom about teaching an old dog new tricks.
After a month of working with Johnson, the Blue Jays next assigned Romero to the High Single-A Dunedin Blue Jays. He pitched just once in Florida and dominated, throwing for seven innings of one-hit ball and didn’t walking a single batter. This is where the Blue Jays plan for Romero (if they ever had one in the first place) completely fell apart.
With Josh Johnson headed to the DL, the Jays needed a spot starter back on May 3rd. After giving him a full month off competitive baseball, and with one Single-A start under his belt, Blue Jays’ GM Alex Anthopoulos decided it was the time to bring Ricky back to Toronto.
Not surprisingly, Romero was shelled. He survived four innings the first time out but his second start ended almost as quick as it began. He was hit hard and often, managing only one out on 29 pitches.
Romero clearly wasn’t ready to face MLB batters yet. The Blue Jays decided the best place for him would be in Triple-A as a starting pitcher with the Buffalo Bisons. In what was probably the low point of his career, Ricky was outrighted from the 40-man roster to make room for Roman Ortiz. After he passed through waiver untouched, Ricky decided to ditch his new mechanics and go back to what he was comfortable with. Apparently Romero wasn’t a believer that he needed re-tooling as evidenced by this quote from John Lott’s article in the National Post.
“The biggest thing is confidence, you know? It was never anything mechanical. What I told the organization was that I was going back to my old mechanics, plain and simple.”
So Ricky went back to his old mechanics. For our readers who keep up with the Jays Journal Minor League Report, we kept pretty close tabs on Romero this year and despite occasional flashes of brilliance he was generally inconsistent for the Bisons this year.
These aren’t good numbers when you look at it as a body of work. But just so that we aren’t taking anything out of context, I’ve also included the game log of his last 10 starts in Triple-A this year courtesy of MiLB.com:
Looking at these results, nothing has really changed for Romero during his time with Buffalo. His control is still awful and is allowing far too many BB/9 at 5.0. His SO/BB rate is also brutal at 1.29. Lefties are hitting .330 off him and righties .294. His opponent’s average is .305 with the bases empty, .300 with runner on and .316 with runners in scoring position so his problems aren’t isolated to either the stretch or the wind up.
It’s not exactly clear how exactly the Toronto Blue Jays plan to use Romero but I think that the best answer might be “not at all”. There are cases to be made about why he was brought up, including the $7.5 million he is owed the next two years (with a $600,00 buyout in 2016) and the fact now that the Bisons’ season is over there’s no where else for him to pitch. It’s not as if he’s going to be pitching in the Arizona Fall League. But I’m not sure if there will be any saving grace for Ricardo “Ricky” Romero. He hasn’t turned his fortunes around at all this year and he needs to prove something soon if he wants to ever start another game at the major league level.