Hayhurst: Romero tweaks not a good sign

Before Ricky Romero could address his pitching mechanics, he had to deal with his anger -- a daunting task for a former MLB all-star who was demoted by the Toronto Blue Jays to the minor leagues this spring.
March 21, 2013, 9:09 AM

If the tweaks he’s been making are anything to go by, Ricky Romero’s mechanics are off, thus giving credence to the belief that his problems aren’t just mental but physical as well.

My question is: what, exactly, are Romero’s mechanics off from?

Ricky Romero’s mechanics are, to me, the same mechanics now that they were back in 2011. I haven’t seen any change. He still doesn’t fully finish his pitches, not in the flat-backed, full-extension sense.

He still looks like he has a stiff arm, like it’s one solid heavy bar catapulting the baseball from his shoulder instead of whipping it like others.

He still steps slightly across his body, landing hard on his heel, blocking his hips from fully rotating and letting go of the ball with his chest facing home while his hips face the left side of the batter’s box.

It’s not perfect, but it’s far from wrong. And if they’re off, then they’ve been off for years now.

And what are wrong mechanics, exactly?

Tim Lincecum, a guy with some of the most irregular mechanics in pitching, has also enjoyed some of the most tremendous success. James Shields over-rotates at the top of his delivery. So does Roy Halladay.

Stephen Strasburg, who throws 96 and up, received a mechanical grade of “near disaster” when compared to Greg Maddux, who threw 86 and below, yet graded  as  “near perfect” (according to ESPN). At one time Mark Prior was said to have text book power mechanics… and then his arm exploded.

Mechanics are only about as good as the success you have using them. Even if you argue mechanics aren’t about having success but about health, consider how many pitchers with “bad” mechanics would be pitching in the big leagues without their “badness.”

Then consider how many people actually have “perfect” mechanics and still break down without a day in the pros.

Romero’s body is starting to wear down. While smarter men then me will tell you exactly how his mechanics are affecting his body, I doubt anyone would be talking about it if he was still pitching like he did in 2011.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” That’s the standard lingo of baseball, especially at the big-league level where skill and superstition come together to form a delicate crystalline substance that can only be called success. It can shatter at any moment, and the last thing a coach who sees a player having it wants to do is start poking around under the hood.

But now for Ricky, the hood is up and the mechanics are at work. That’s not a good sign, not at this point in the spring, anyway. For starters, it means more tinkering with a delivery that’s already hard for Ricky to repeat. And secondly, because if we’re going by the old lingo it means something is broken, a notion that flies in the face of the “everything is fine” logic you’ve been hearing from the Jays about Romero thus far.

I hope Romero is truly fine, and that everything is alright, but I know there is no such thing as a little tweak when it comes to pitching mechanics — specifically pitching mechanics that have propelled you to the big leagues and earned you millions of dollars.

Unless said tweaks can fix Romero’s delivery and return him to his high ceiling results near instantaneously, it’s going to mean an adjustment period. And adjustment periods mean struggles.

Even something as slight as moving from one side of the rubber to the middle means depth on certain pitches change while others increase. This, in turn, means re-learning your pitch action, which changes the way you approach batters, which changes your outcomes. A more dramatic change, like a new pitch, a different arm slot, or a new timing mechanism… well, things can get complicated fast.

Romero’s next start is a five-inning stint in a minor league game Thursday. It’s a good place for him to incorporate whatever tweaks he’s been given, but it still doesn’t change the fact that he’s faltered enough for mechanical intervention.

And if this batch of tweaks doesn’t get the job done, you can bet there will be more.

I hope it’s a quick and painless process for Ricky, but I don’t think it’s going to be. I think this is yet another evolutionary step for Ricky as he tries to figure his way out of his old skin and into the new.

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