DUNEDIN, Fla. – Ricky Romero could have taken 72 hours to report to minor-league camp after the Toronto Blue Jays optioned him to single-A Dunedin earlier this week.
Instead, the embattled left-hander shook off the shock, doubt and anger over his demotion and showed up the very next day, ready to start working, determined to turn things around.
“I mean, I don’t belong here to be honest with you. This is not for me,” Romero said Thursday in an interview with sportsnet.ca, National Post and Toronto Sun. “I’m a big league pitcher, and I’m confident in all my capabilities that I can get up there and help that team win.”
The 28-year-old agreed to speak at the club’s Bobby Mattick Complex after being offered a chance to offer his view on the week’s events, and during a nearly 15-minute conversation he was frustrated at times, disappointed at others, resolute and reflective throughout.
“I thought it was going to be harder because when it happened, I go like, ‘This is supposed to help my confidence?’” Romero recalled. “When it first happens, you’re kind of like, ‘Whoa.’ A million thoughts go through your head. I don’t know if you guys have ever been fired from a job, you go and sit at home and you’re like, ‘What the hell did I do wrong?’ Tons of questions go through your head, tons of stuff goes through your head.
“(Thursday) I woke up and I was like, ‘You know what, no one’s going to feel sorry me,’ I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me. I’ve got to go out there and work, work, work, because I’m not planning on being here for two weeks, three weeks. I want to get this done quick, and I’m going to spend all the time that I can to get up to Toronto and be with those guys because I am part of the team and I belong there.
“I’m not a minor-league pitcher, I’m a major-league pitcher. I’m an all-star for a reason. I’m going to throw out all this stuff because I am confident in my abilities. I’ve always been kind of shy to go, ‘Oh, yeah, I’m this,’ but that’s what I consider myself and I know what I have the potential to do and be when I’m up there, and the impact I can make on a game when I’m out there pitching.”
A full transcript of the interview is below:
What was your reaction to the decision?
“Obviously I was disappointed, in no way, shape or form do I want to be here, and I don’t have to agree with the decisions they make. But at the same time, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do, you’ve got to maintain that attitude of got to keep working, because the goal is to go up there and help the team win. A lot of the stuff I did this whole spring I felt like got blown out of proportion, I couldn’t even look to my right or look to my left because it was getting written about, or talked about. I feel like it’s disappointing, this is not where you want to be.”
The decision blindsided you?
“Yeah, absolutely, I had already sent my car up, sent everything, I have a place up there and everything, so it blindsides you a little bit. Like I said, it is what it is and you’ve got to keep that chin up and head high. I feel like I’ve done a lot of good things and God forbid I had a bad spring, everyone made a big deal out of it.”
The Blue Jays must have made a big deal out of it, too, to make that decision?
“I guess. Ultimately they’re the ones that have the final word. I talked to them and we’re going to get this right and I don’t feel like I’m too far off. A lot of people make it seem like I’m far off, I’m not far off. I hope it’s a little quick thing and I can get back up there. I’m not Roy Halladay, I’m not Cliff Lee, I’m not none of those guys. I know those guys have done it, they learned and have had great careers.”
“I’m Ricky Romero, and that’s what I’ve got to continue to tell myself. Just because I came down here, it’s not going to be, ‘OK, he’s going to win the Cy Young.’ It doesn’t work like that, you still have to keep working, stay humble and keep working hard. As disappointed as I am right now, this is not going to define me as a person or as a player, or define my career. I’ve just got to keep working. I’ve been doubted my whole career, ever since the first day I was drafted I was doubted, and I’ve been doubted since the day I entered major-league camp, every year, not that I have to prove anything to anyone, but that’s just the way it’s been and this is just another stepping stone I have to cross over.”
What have the Blue Jays told you about the areas they want you to focus on?
“It was my first day here (Wednesday), we just worked on some stuff. Like I told them, for me it’s not mechanical, it’s more just getting right mentally, getting that confidence and feeling right. I felt like after that last start there (Tuesday against the Pirates) I was feeling it again, and obviously then you get knocked down like that right after the game, it’s something you don’t expect, it hurts and it hits me to the bottom of my heart because I care so much and I’ve worked so hard for everything I have. It is what it is.”
That the Blue Jays kept saying you’re our guy must have made it tougher?
“You never know. That’s why I always say to everyone if you stay humble then you can’t get complacent, not that I ever did. But every year it seems like there’s always something for me to prove. Or there’s doubt, or is he going to do this? And I just go out there and put everything on me. Obviously for that down year, if it’s anything, it’s more motivation to come up there and kick everyone’s ass.”
“There’s no hard feelings towards this organization. I love those guys, every single one of them in that clubhouse. I was looking forward to being part of it on opening night and being part of the team. I feel like my whole career I’ve waited for that moment. It sucks. It makes me sad. It’s been an emotional past two days. It hasn’t been easy. It’s part of it and like I said, whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I’ll continue to work and hopefully I’ll see them soon.”
Is this the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?
“It’s got to be one of the toughest ones in my career. Going through the rough year last year, it is what it is, it’s almost like when you have a job and you get demoted, that’s what it feels like. I don’t want to try to make anyone feel sorry for me. I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me. I’m going to take on this challenge and that will do it, just like I’ve done my whole career. If anything I’m going to come out a better person, a better man, a better pitcher. In the end I’m going to be all right.”
Can describe the fishbowl you’ve experienced the past year, the toll that’s taken?
“A lot of it, it’s one of those things you come into spring training and you want to come out with a clean slate but every day you’re getting asked the same questions. ‘Is he going to come back, is he going to do this or what happened last year?’ At one point, when I get up there, I’ll tell you this, I don’t want to hear about last year any more. It happened, it’s done, it’s over with. There’s nothing I can do any more.”
“It’s like, it’s a new year, let’s come up with some new questions. As tough as it is to do this interview right now, it’s tough. I mean, I don’t belong here to be honest with you. This is not for me. I’m a big league pitcher and I’m 100 per cent confident in all my capabilities that I can get up there and help that team win.”
Alex Anthopoulos drew some parallels between the mechanical issues this spring and the spring of 2009, what are feeling in that regard?
“It’s not a lot of it mechanical. It’s more just mental, getting right, confidence feeling yourself. You get a feel, and once you get that feel you feel good about yourself. It was something that was coming along this spring. Obviously, coming into spring, the one area that you kind of come in – physically, you come in ready, but you don’t come in ready. You say to yourself, ‘OK, I’m going to finish getting ready in spring and see what I can do because coming off the surgery I wasn’t able to do things that I normally do. And I felt like I might have not helped (being cautious in rehab), and it kind of pushed me back a little bit, I guess in the progression of getting on the mound and feeling right and stuff like that.”
Are you knees allowing you to be 100 per cent?
“They felt fine. It’s one of those things where I’ve taken good care of them and we’re doing so many things here.”
Even driving and landing?
“I tell you what, though, I feel like every spring now, I’m going to come in ready. It almost feels like that, you know? As much as it’s crazy to say sometimes, not that I got complacent, but you say to yourself, ‘OK, I’m going to finish getting ready over there and I’m going to have time.’”
Given the elbow surgery and knee issues during the off-season, you didn’t have a choice, did you?
“No, I didn’t have a choice because I was limited to a lot of stuff. Obviously, you’re not playing catch every day. You’re playing catch four days a week, five times a week. Usually I’m playing catch six times a week and you’re feeling good. Like I said, there’s nothing to blame. You guys know me, I’m not making excuses for anything. I’m here.”
How big is the mental hump?
“I thought it was going to be harder because when it happened, I go like, ‘This is supposed to help my confidence?’ When it first happens, you’re kind of like, ‘Whoa.’ A million thoughts go through your head. I don’t know if you guys have ever been fired from a job and you go and sit at home and you’re like, ‘What the hell did I do wrong?’ Tons of questions go through your head, tons of stuff goes through your head. Today I woke up and I was like, ‘You know what, no one’s going to feel sorry me,’ I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me.”
“I’ve got to go out there and work, work, work, because I’m not planning on being here for two weeks, three weeks. I want to get this done quick, and I’m going to spend all the time that I can to get up to Toronto and be with those guys because I am part of the team and I belong there. I’m not a minor-league pitcher, I’m a major-league pitcher. I’m an all-star for a reason. I’m going to throw out all this stuff because I am confident in my abilities. I’ve always been kind of shy to go, ‘Oh, yeah, I’m this’ but that’s what I consider myself and I know what I have the potential to do and be when I’m up there and the impact I can make on a game when I’m out there pitching.”