TORONTO – It may very well be grasping at straws at this point, but the Toronto Blue Jays are essentially skipping a Ricky Romero start to give him nine days of rest between outings in their latest attempt to ease him out of his funk.
Manager John Farrell revealed plan he called “uncommon” on Wednesday, saying his left-hander will miss his next turn Saturday and return Sept. 12 at home against the Seattle Mariners, pointing to both a desire to give him a mental breather and some evidence that extra rest has helped Romero.
The numbers bear that out, in part, as in 15 starts on normal four days of rest, Romero has posted a 6.56 ERA and 1.729 WHIP, while with an extra day off in between, he’s pitched to a 4.21 ERA and 1.422 WHIP in eight starts.
But on six days of rest or beyond, Romero has a 7.52 ERA and 1.475 WHIP in three starts, one of them the seven innings of two-run ball he delivered at Yankee Stadium on Aug. 28.
It may not be an ideal solution, but the Blue Jays are giving it a shot as the season winds down with the acceptance of their struggling ace, who still describes the decision as “disappointing.”
“You know what? Everybody is putting a little emphasis on that because I’ve been struggling,” Romero said of feeling better with extra rest. “If I was winning, no one would be even thinking about it. Let’s face it, it’s not about rest, it’s about winning and I haven’t been doing it. …
“I’ve been opening every fifth day for four years here. Two days (extra of rest)? Yeah, it might make a difference but at the same time, we prepare ourselves to be ready every fifth day and that’s what you have to continue to do.”
Romero has lost 12 straight decisions and is 8-13 with a stunning 5.85 ERA. He lasted just an inning in his last start, allowing seven runs on eight hits and a walk. Both he and the Blue Jays have experimented with many different ways to pull him out of his funk, and nothing has worked.
“When we continue to go back and review all that’s been attempted, all different approaches, and yet you look at the numbers that bear out with one additional day of rest or two additional days’ rest, we can’t not factor that in,” said Farrell. “So he’ll pitch on Wednesday against Seattle and then go every sixth day from that point forward.”
One theory the Blue Jays are kicking around is whether the heavy workload on Romero over the past four seasons – he’s logged 776 big-league innings since winning a spot on the 2009 staff – could be catching up with him.
Or as Farrell put it, “maybe it’s just where he’s at this year physically.”
“You never want to just throw something to the wind, saying, ‘Well, it’s just one of those years.’ I don’t think we’ll ever just accept that,” added Farrell. “But as you look back, the additional day of rest has a tangible effect. Is it because he’s pitched consecutive years of 200-plus innings? If that’s cut back this year, do we have a bounce-back next year? At this point, I’d like to think that yes, there will be, just from a physical standpoint.”
Still, Romero doesn’t necessarily buy into that line of thinking either, saying he would only be concerned on that front if there was a drop in his velocity. There hasn’t been.
“When you look up there, you see 93, 94, 92, whatever it is,” he said. “I feel good, feel fresh. I work hard every off-season and during the season to get ready for the grind of the year. It’s only my fourth year and I feel like you shouldn’t feel tired until you’re probably in your 10th year.
“I’m sure innings catch up to you at that point, right now I feel fresh and good. It is what it is and no hard feelings toward anyone. Just got to live with it. …
“I’m not insulted by it. Obviously I want to pitch but I’m not going to sit here and pout. It is what it is.”
SHUT DOWN: First baseman David Cooper’s back woes flared up during his rehab assignment with single-A Dunedin and was shut down, likely for the season.
He joins fellow first basemen Edwin Encarnacion and Adam Lind in missing time with mid-back troubles, a trend that has the Blue Jays concerned. At this point there’s no commonality between the three – Encarnacion hurt himself on a swing and got worse, Cooper re-aggravated his pain diving back into a base, Lind was wear and tear – but it’s something they’ll look into.
“I’d like to think it’s coincidental and yet when you talk to each person individually at various points all three have dealt with it,” said Farrell. “Whether it has been initiated because of a swing or whether it has been initiated because they are holding runners on, that seems to be where the stress comes in. When they’re in that position, holding runners on for a prolonged period, that’s a cumulative effect. …
“I can’t say that’s the sole reason. Is it a contributing factor like we talked about with pitchers? I would say it contributes at some level.”
Yan Gomes, initially slated for a callup before J.P. Arencibia’s rapid progress from a broken hand, may be brought up to take Cooper’s place.
MAKING GAINS: J.P. Arencibia was slated to DH for single-A Dunedin on Wednesday night and barring setbacks, should be ready to join the Blue Jays on Friday in Boston.
Joining him could be third baseman Brett Lawrie, who was also set to be in Dunedin’s lineup and appears to rapidly recovering from his oblique injury.