Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Ricky Romero. Just the thought of him cause Jays fans to cringe. After the departure of Roy Halladay before the 2010 season, Toronto Blue Jays looked to their former top prospect Ricky Romero to fill the void. As the Jays had hoped, the talented left-hander took steps in replacing their former ace posting a record of 14-9 with a 3.73 ERA. The following year Romero became an all-star and finished the year with even better numbers (15-11, 2.92 ERA,) prompting Toronto to signing him to a 5 year 30.05 million dollar contract.
It all went downhill after that. After starting the season 8-1 Romero saw his season crumble finishing the campaign 9-14, (finishing the season 1-13 if you can’t do the math). He saw his ERA balloon to 5.77 in 2012 and he led the league in walks with 105. 2013 was a year to forget for Romero, he lost his rotation spot to JA Happ and Toronto shocked the baseball world by opting to have Romero stay in Dunedin to start the season. In desperate need for a starter during the first week of May, the Jays called up Romero to fill the void. In two starts he allowed six runs in 4.1 IP. He was a September call up for Toronto and made only two appearances out of the bullpen. He finished the season 0-2 with a 11.05 ERA and eight walks in 7.1 IP.
Now what? Will Ricky Romero have a chance of making the rotation our of spring?
In a word… No. Ricky isn’t Toronto’s first option for the final rotation spot. The Blue Jays tried to change Ricky’s mechanics during the first half of the year and Romero opted to return to his old mechanics. After watching Ricky when he was called up in May he looked very uncomfortable with his new mechanics. He wasn’t able to stay on top of the ball which made his command weak. Also, his breaking ball looked dull. It lacked that Romero break that we had grown to know. A bit of that can be attributed to the lack of fastball command. Growing up I was told: “if you want a better breaking ball or change up, command your fastball better”.
Maybe the Jays can move Ricky to the bullpen just like Brett Cecil.
Again…. No. Ricky has many red flags to become a bullpen arm. The most glaring problem is the high walk rate he has throughout his career. He owns a 1.76 K/BB ratio in his MLB time, and a 4.0 BB/9. Any reliever should come in and throw strike, especially if they do not own a blazing fastball. Also, you want a left-handed pitcher to get left-handed hitters out. For some reason he handles right-handed hitters better than left-handers. The career slash line against left-handers Ricky has given up a .280/.358/.416 versus righties who own a .231/.312/.303 slash line against Romero.
Ricky is destined to open the season in Triple A Buffalo this spring and has to fight his way back to the big leagues. The Jays have many other options for starting pitchers now that Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison are back from injuries and Todd Redmond and Esmil Rogers have made a name for themselves last season. For Ricky he has a long way back to the majors, But it can happen. Look at Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, or even Scott Kazmir.