ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — There were explanations and rationalizations for Ricky Romero’s second demotion to the minor leagues this year, but ultimately it became clear the Toronto Blue Jays simply didn’t feel confident enough that the left-hander could give them the innings they need.
The former all-star’s mechanical makeover will continue at triple-A Buffalo after his option Thursday morning, a move that came on the heels of a seven-batter, one-out outing Wednesday that was the shortest start of his career.
Explanations for the decision were vague and no specifics were offered on what Romero’s focal points with the Bisons need to be, but given how short a lease he was given and how thin the Blue Jays are right now, it’s clear he needs to win back some faith before he returns.
“I think it’s a combination of things, the performance, we need to get him to pitch, obviously get him to have some success, get some more innings under his belt,” explained GM Alex Anthopoulos. “We’re also in the position now with Brandon (Morrow) having to pitch on Sunday, with innings and things like that, we’re just in a tight spot.
"(Romero) can come back, with the rules he has to be down for 10 days, he could be back that fast -- I'm not saying that's going to happen. But again, you look at the fourth inning of the Seattle game and how it started for him (Wednesday) night, we felt like we needed to give him more starts down there."
Romero returned to the big leagues last weekend after five weeks of work and one start at single-A Dunedin, allowing three runs, all in the last of his four innings. He walked two batters and gave up four hits against the Rays on Wednesday before the plug was pulled.
Bringing him up after just one minor-league start seemed to run counter the club's consistent message of taking things slow to prevent his mechanics from reverting under the duress of competition, but Anthopoulos and pitching coach Pete Walker both pointed to reports from the minors that glowed about Romero's progress. Josh Johnson's trip to the disabled list also created a need.
Walker said he wasn't as bad as things looked, as "watching him warm up, watching him do things, it feels like it's there, it just didn't translate right now, at this point, up here, but I think it will."
Asked what Romero needed to refine, Walker replied: "Some things that he's working on down there, as far as his direction, and consistency in his release point. He's done a lot of those things. He's worked extremely hard over the last month. He's made a ton of progress and I think he feels really good about where he is. Obviously he doesn't feel good about the results, and he's not going to feel good about having to go to Buffalo. But I think he realizes, with talking to him, that he's extremely close and I think that's what's frustrating. He feels like he's there and it just isn't quite translating all the way."
Like Walker, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons pointed to Romero being tentative on the big-league mound, and "you can't do that up here."
"Let him go down there, pitch a few games, see how it all turns out," he added.
In Buffalo, Romero will work with pitching coach Bob Stanley, who will keep in touch with minor-league pitching co-ordinator Dane Johnson, the man who oversaw the lefty in Dunedin.
Romero wasn't available for comment Thursday, but after his start and before his demotion, he said of his performance: "I don't see it as a step backwards. The statistics don't show that but you hold your head high. …
"I know this is where I belong and I'll continue to say it, I could care less what anybody thinks. I can't forget what I've done, my track record isn't very big, but you can't forget what I've done the past four years, either. This is one of those things you wish you had the answer to but you've got to keep going out there and learning about yourself."
Was he brought back too early?
"Hindsight is 20-20, I don't know if we would have brought him up two weeks later, three weeks later, would this have occurred," said Anthopoulos. "You look at other players, we've had Travis Snider go down and I know he doesn't pitch, but we've had position players go down for months, come back and have to go back down again. Sometimes it takes time.
"Maybe it's one of those things, as confident as he felt and as much success he felt he was going to have, because he was very adamant when I talked to him that he was ready. I talked to him two weeks earlier and he felt he could come up here now. Maybe sometimes you end up failing a little bit here and he realizes he'll have to continue to work on some things. We have no question, he's going to work hard and do everything he can and he's a great competitor and he will be back."