DUNEDIN – Pete Walker and Ricky Romero have noticed something is awry in the throwing motion of the Blue Jays fifth starter.
So beginning Thursday, in a minor league game here in Dunedin, the embattled lefthander will work on some of the technical alterations he and his pitching coach have focused on of late.
“(They) have been working on a couple of mechanical changes, his delivery a little bit,” said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons Tuesday morning. “(We want to) get him straighter to home plate, so he’ll go work on that.
“Sometimes he throws across his body. They’re trying to iron it out so it’s more of a direction – more of a straight shot to home plate.”
In addition to changing some mechanics in his throwing motion, Romero’s positioning on the mound will also shift. He had usually set up closer to first base before beginning his throwing sequence, but found that he had some difficulty to get in on right handed hitters.
Now, as part of the adjustments with Walker, Romero will move to the middle of the rubber.
“I’ve got to get comfortable there. It’s not a big movement, but I feel more like I’m getting to home plate, rather than not,” Romero said.
Coming off a poor 2012, Romero has struggled this spring. He’s struggled with location. He’s struggled with confidence. He’s struggled in all but one of his four Florida starts. He’s thrown 8 2/3 innings. Allowed seven earned runs on 11 hits. Given up three home runs, and walked seven batters.
“Sometime guys who throw across the body have trouble commanding the ball,” said Gibbons. “They scatter a little bit. They leave a little arm side. This will be a more natural, free and easy type delivery.”
Romero has, for the most part, been predominantly a pitcher who has thrown across his body. What the Blue Jays noticed is the direction of his landing foot this spring is off.
“I’m still going to throw across my body. It’s about finishing pitches… It’s about getting better,” said Romero. “The more you get muscle memory under control, the better off you’re going to be.”
Romero said he and Walker spotted some of “bad habits,” while studying video.
“There’s a couple of things he and Pete picked up that’s a little different from what he’s done in the past. They’re trying to iron those things out,” said Gibbons. “It’s nothing major, but it’s something that will help his command. That’s where he gets in trouble – when he loses his strike zone.”
AND OUT OF THE PEN: The long road back from off-season surgery continues for Casey Janssen, and nobody is more optimistic than Gibbons for a possible return on opening day.
“Barring a setback, Casey should be fine,” the manager said. “He won’t be ready to go and knock off three games in a row. If everything goes from here on out accordingly, he should be ready to go.”
After throwing a minor league game Sunday (“the guys who saw him said he looked good,” said Gibbons), Janssen will throw a side session today, and the manager said he’d get into a game later this week. Janssen, for what it’s worth, said he’d see how he felt after today’s bullpen before making any further determination.
His mantra this spring, after that Nov. 16 surgery, has been that his daily schedule “is written in pencil,” and that he’d return “when he’s right.”
While the Blue Jays would, ideally, like to have Janssen go back-to-back games in the spring, the timing doesn’t appear to line up, with opening day only two weeks away.
“I wouldn’t bet on it,” said Gibbons.
The plan is for Sergio Santos to throw on consecutive games at some point this week.
AT THE ONLY INFIELD POSITION UP FOR GRABS: Maicer Izturis and Emilio Bonifacio may split time at second base to open the season. Their spot in the order won’t change, regardless of which guy will start on a given night.
Gibbons said they’d hit ninth – followed by Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera.
“They fit naturally into that spot,” said Gibbons.
LAWRIE WATCH: : Brett Lawrie, who has been sidelined since suffering a rib injury in a World Baseball Classic tune-up game, will do some rotational exercises Tuesday – the first bit of baseball work for the third baseman dating back to March 6.
“He’s moving along. But there’s not a whole lot of time left, so today’s a big day for him to find out how he feels after that. We’ll have a better idea tomorrow,” said Gibbons. “We’ve got to get him in a game by this weekend, or the early part of next week for it to make any sense.”
Gibbons said there’s a possibility he may not be ready for opening day, and the team won’t rush him. Lawrie said last week that he won’t begin baseball activities until he feels 100%, to avoid any aggravation of the injury.
Beyond some light work on the stationary bicycle, most of Lawrie’s time this past week has been spent in the training room.
Mark DeRosa would be the Blue Jays third baseman in his absence.