TORONTO — The Toronto Blue Jays had a plan for Ricky Romero when they demoted him to single-A Dunedin at the end of spring training, and they wanted him to pick it back up when they sent him down to triple-A Buffalo earlier this month after a two-start stint in the big-leagues.
But after four alarming starts with the Bisons, including Monday night’s eight-runs-in-two-thirds-of-an-inning mess, the path forward is far more blurred, a solution to the former all-star’s problems seemingly further rather than nearer.
Right now, there are no answers.
“I wish I could speak with more conviction on we know what it is, we’re going to get it fixed, we know exactly it’s going to be a week, two weeks,” Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos said Tuesday. “I can’t. It’s a process and no one knows how long it’s going to take.”
The debate now within the Blue Jays front office is where to go from here, and there are no obvious paths on that front, either. As Anthopoulos put it, "we've never been through this before with anybody, so there's no manual to say when this happens, do X."
The numbers are worrying, as Romero's allowed 23 hits and 20 walks over 13 innings, striking out just three. What confuses things is that there are positives amid the rubble, the frequency with which he's been getting ground balls for instance, but Romero's been crumbling when in trouble.
"It's really start to start at this point," said Anthopoulos. "There's a lot of trial and error and one (approach) is to continue to run him out there. We talked to the staff down there (Monday) night, we've heard this a lot, that the bullpens have been good, the side work has been good, it's just translating that into the game. Or there might be some success coming in the game, but the minute things seem to fall off, whether it's some base hits or broken bat singles or walks, it seems like the roof caves in. …
"All we have right now is that he's scheduled to be making his next start."
That would be Saturday when the Bisons visit the Norfolk Tides, and in the interim the Blue Jays will keep brainstorming for answers. Ideas thus far have included changing something in his side sessions, giving him a break, skipping him a start, perhaps even giving him some relief appearances.
"When the results aren't there, that's when you start to say any other ideas?" said Anthopoulos. "Anything is on the table at this point. …
"All he can do is work. I know it sounds like a simple vague answer, but all you can do is continue to work and try to get through it. There's a lot of trial and error right now, trying to find what is the right fit."
There are no health issues hampering Romero, as he's been reporting no soreness or pain and his off-season MRIs came back clean.
Anthopoulos pointed to Scott Kazmir, Cliff Lee and Barry Zito as pitchers who have endured significant struggles and rebounded, and he's hopeful Romero -- due US$7.75 million in each of the next two seasons -- joins them.
"When you struggle, we all look for answers," said Anthopoulos. "What is it? Is it mental, is it mechanical? It's all of the above at this point. People say confidence, but when you're struggling, how can you be confident?
"You can maybe be confident early in the struggles but when the struggles are prolonged, isn't it human nature? Just to strictly address confidence, if you've had multiple times when you're struggling, why would you be as confident as you were when you were that all-star and playing well.
"He just needs some things to go right for him."