Hayhurst: Romero should remain in the minors

Ricky Romero’s command issues have continued at the minor league level. (AP/Mike Carlson)
August 13, 2013, 6:56 PM

As the season winds down, speculation swirls over which players will be called up from the Blue Jays farm system to get their September bonuses.

Marcus Stroman, who if the starter merry-go-round in Toronto continues will most likely see meaningful action with the big club next year, probably gets his first taste this September.

Sean Nolin, who had a nightmarish debut, should get a rematch.

Anthony Gose will return, especially with Colby Rasmus feeling a little tender going down the stretch.

Kevin Pillar could get a test drive. Munenori Kawasaki is a lock. Luis Jimenez might get a chance to challenge the fences.

There will be others, if for no other reason than to help carry the burden of innings that mean nothing. But one player that I don’t think should be back with the club is Ricky Romero.

The Blue Jays fan base tends to wear rose coloured glasses when evaluating Romero. His outings in triple-A are still talking points, and each time he pitches well it’s rumoured that — mainly because the current big league rotation is such a letdown — he’ll make his triumphant return.

He meant a lot to this town and his attitude is the stuff you like to see from your faithful soldiers, but he’s had just a plain terrible year and is not ready to return despite the fact he’ll tell you he’s ready for whatever, whenever.

Even though most of his struggles came early, he’s still far from a major league calibre pitcher. After 97 innings pitched in triple-A, he’s walked 54 batters and struck out only 67. He’s also allowed 116 hits, earning a WHIP of 1.753.

It doesn’t matter how his last outing went, or where his velocity is at. If he comes back up to the majors pitching the way he is now, he’s going to get beat up again — even if he was asked to play the sixth man swing role that Ramon Ortiz and Todd Redmond have.

Romero is simply not throwing enough strikes or not missing enough bats. Redmond, who many would agree does not have the ceiling that Romero does, is out-pitching him. The peripheral numbers are there for Redmond. They are not there for Romero.

And yet I still feel the Jays are going to bring Romero back up, and the general thinking on the matter is, “Why not? The team is awful and you might as well see what he’s got.”

No thanks. You know what you have. After 97 Innings in triple-A, you know you have a pitcher who is not in the zone as consistently as he needs to be, and is giving up too many hits to be a starter at the major league level.

If the Jays want to bring him back up as an extra arm in the pen, I understand the logic. However, I disagree with introducing Romero to a pen role for the first time in the big leagues after what has undoubtedly been his most difficult year in the game.

It’s abundantly clear that whatever ails Romero has a major mental component. Changing from the starting rotation to the pen, an act typically seen as a downgrade for most starters, is jarring to the confidence.

Beyond that, it’s also a major skill-set transition. A starter has to learn how to pitch from the pen. The amount of time needed to warm up changes drastically. How to feel confident with yourself despite not getting a message, four days to prep, a pre-game chat with your catcher and pitching coach before taking the mound.

The pen is an answer the bell scenario and, for the more methodical pitchers in the game, adapting to a much less pomp and circumstance style of pitching is a struggle.

I’m not writing Romero off. I do think he no longer trusts the Jays, something made clear when he told the media he was going back to what he knew and opting to surround himself with people he trusted. However, I do think that Romero’s future at the major league level is in the pen, at least in the short term.

There is no rule that says he can’t go back to starting, but if he’s introduced to the pen under suboptimal circumstances — like he was re-introduced to the majors this year — he could very well not make the adjustment and find the prospect of pitching successfully at the major league level, in any capacity, too daunting a task.

I know the Jays want to give him every opportunity to succeed, especially since it’s in their best interest financially and developmentally. That’s why I feel they should leave him in the minors for the rest of this year, or start turning his final triple-A outings into hybrid outings that are part start and part bullpen so he can begin getting acclimated for the role at the major league level.

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