TORONTO — Josh Thole believes the nadir of a dreadful May 27 outing for Ricky Romero marked a turning point for the struggling Toronto Blue Jays left-hander, and a second straight outing of improvement Friday night suggests he may be right.
Pitching for the second time since pulling the plug on the revised delivery the team suggested to him, Romero allowed three runs on seven hits and two walks over 5.2 innings in triple-A Buffalo’s 4-3 win over Lehigh Valley.
The line looks uglier than his performance, as he threw five shutout innings before getting burned for three runs in the sixth. It was different than his last outing June 1 against Norfolk, when he gave up a pair in the first and two more in the second but recovered to go six, allowing five runs on eight hits with no walks and three strikeouts.
Both those starts came after a disaster outing at Durham, when Romero was pounded for eight runs on five hits and three walks in 2/3 of an inning. Afterwards he decided to return to his old mechanics and to fight through his troubles, which he believes are more mental than physical.
"He threw 2/3 of an inning in Durham one night, and you look at the boxscore and you say, 'Oh my gosh,'" said Thole, who caught Romero's previous starts before being recalled by the Blue Jays Friday. "But I feel like that was what made Ricky feel like that's what he needed to do.
"I'll tell you this, the difference I saw is in the consistency of the command of his fastball, it's getting better from start after start after start. His velocity was coming up, which is good, the action on his balls was getting better. (Against Norfolk) he was getting hit around the yard a bit, a ball got into the wind for a homer, a couple of bloopers, a double, stuff like that, but he was throwing strikes, and I think that was a big lift for him."
The key now will be for Romero to continue cementing his gains.
The 2011 all-star's stat lines remain dismal, a 10.22 ERA over six starts for triple-A Buffalo and a 12.46 ERA in two big-league starts, but perhaps he is now making strides he can believe and trust in.