SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The San Francisco Giants are stocked with talented pitchers, with Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija and Jake Peavy having been named All-Stars at least once.
Those five figure to comprise the opening day starting rotation for the Giants. But there’s another former All-Star on the Giants’ spring training roster who is trying to make the most of the opportunity he has, though he faces long odds to make the major-league roster out of camp.
Veteran left-hander Ricky Romero is trying to revive a career derailed by injuries to both knees. An All-Star in 2011 with his original team, the Toronto Blue Jays, Romero hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2013.
The Giants signed him to a minor-league contract last May, then after granting his free agency re-signed him in November. Romero is throwing bullpen sessions during spring training and will get a look during workouts and games, grateful for a chance.
“It means a lot. It’s a change of scenery. You look around this clubhouse and you see a lot of talent,” Romero said. “The past few years speaks for itself with what this organization’s been able to do and for me to be able to come in and have a chance to compete makes me excited. I worked pretty hard this off-season to get healthy and I’m just taking it day by day.”
Romero, 31, had his two surgeries in 2014. Before that, he won 51 games with the Blue Jays from 2009 to 2012 and was 15-11 with a 2.92 ERA in 2011, when he was named an All-Star.
But injuries limited his effectiveness and hurt his control, and Romero opted to try to pitch through the pain.
“I’ve always been a hard worker. Just go out there and pitch,” Romero said. “I think where I went wrong was where I tried pitching through it and I ended up hurting myself more than anything. But you learn from those mistakes.”
Romero is from Los Angeles and grew up in the shadow of Dodger Stadium. He never imagined he’d be wearing Giants colours.
“When I signed here last year, everyone back home was like, ‘We don’t know if we can ever wear those colours, but we’ll be rooting for you,”‘ Romero said with a laugh. “It’s just how it went. It’s fine.”
Pitching abroad was never an option. “Not as long as I still think I can compete here. There’s no reason for me to even go that route, yet,” Romero said.
The Giants were one of the first teams to call when the Blue Jays released Romero. Manager Bruce Bochy likes his resume and said he’ll build up Romero’s innings in the spring for a look as a starting pitcher.
“You have a left-hander with a lot of experience. Knows how to pitch. Gives us depth,” Bochy said. “We talk about Cueto and Samardzija, but these (other starters) are guys that could play a big part in our season, a major part in it, whether now or later. Anytime you have a guy with his success and experience, that’s intriguing. The fact he’s left-handed made us bring him back to see what he has.”
Romero felt frustrated due to his injuries and the missed time in the big leagues. He appreciates being back in the major-league fold again.
“Walking in and seeing your jersey and your last name again, I stare at it every morning,” Romero said. “It’s something that I never, ever take for granted from the first day I put on a uniform until now. The good thing is I have a chance to show what I’ve got, show that I’m healthy and we’ll go from there.”