LAKELAND, Fla. — It wasn’t what the Toronto Blue Jays wanted to see out of Ricky Romero.
Scheduled to throw four innings against the Detroit Tigers and given approximately 60 pitches with which to do so, Romero struggled out of the gate, walking two of the first three hitters he faced and going to a 3-0 count on the other one before coming back to strike him out.
Eleven of Romero’s first 15 pitches missed the strike zone as he struggled through an opening frame that saw him throw 30 pitches while facing just five hitters — the inning ending when Miguel Cabrera ill-advisedly attempted to go from first to third on Victor Martinez’s RBI single to centre; Cabrera was thrown out easily, saving Romero from having to possibly approach the 40-pitch mark.
Ricky settled down over his final two innings, though he still found himself behind in the count to nearly every hitter he faced. He allowed a solo home run to Jhonny Peralta in the second and a pair of infield hits and a soft-line single in the third. Not pretty on the scoreboard but really not all that bad overall, except for the ball-strike ratio.
Romero used up his pitch allotment in just three innings, and might not have made it out of the third if not for a Martinez double-play ball that ended the inning on Romero's 62nd pitch.
Out of those 62 pitches, only 32 were strikes -- a ratio of almost 50/50 balls to strikes, which is pretty terrible. He faced 14 hitters and was behind in the count on nearly every one of them.
Facing the Tigers' regular starters, with the exception of catcher and left field, a strong outing from Romero would have put some wind in his sails and maybe quieted some of the chirping from a vocal segment of the Blue Jays' fan base that is ready to pull the plug on the man who went to the all-star game in 2011 and has started and won each of the Blue Jays' last two season openers.
Instead, it was another disappointing afternoon, leaving Romero with plenty to work on in his final three starts of the spring.
There's no danger that Romero will lose his spot in the Blue Jays' rotation if he remains healthy, no matter how well J.A. Happ pitches. But if he continues to struggle, the leash on him once the regular season begins will be short indeed.
Romero has run into some bad luck this spring, having had a couple of innings get away from him after some plays weren't made behind him, but overall he's still issued seven walks in 8.2 innings against only six strikeouts, with three home runs allowed. It's not been a good spring.
It's easy to dive off the bandwagon, given Romero's awful 2012 and the fact that he has hardly lit the world on fire this spring, but the truth is that while last season most certainly means something, Romero's four spring starts do not. Romero will not start the season in Buffalo, regardless of how the rest of the spring goes.
Interestingly enough, Happ will be the next Jays starter out of the chute as they play host to the Baltimore Orioles Saturday afternoon in Dunedin. The lefty is scheduled to throw five innings, against Baltimore's Jake Arrieta, and even if he strikes out 15 Orioles in a row, he's not making the team. Sergio Santos will follow -- his first action in a real fake game since March 3, when he worked an inning against the Phillies.
We'll have that game on the air for you across the Blue Jays Radio Network, starting with the pre-game show at 12:30 p.m. ET, so make sure you tune in!