Dunedin — The right thing to say in Spring Training is that it’s early. It doesn’t matter. There’s time. Stuff is being worked on.
The problem with that line of thinking as it relates to the Blue Jays one-time ace and future No. 5 starter Ricky Romero is that what he’s shown in brief glimpses this spring is more of the same.
And for a pitcher coming off the worst season of his career — one that went into a tailspin in late June and never recovered — it’s not too early for worry, even if he says he’s not.
Making his third start of the spring in the Blue Jays’ 4-2 win Saturday over a shadow of a Detroit Tigers lineup, Romero looked every inch the pitcher who dropped 12 straight decisions and finished the year 9-14 with a ghastly 5.77 ERA and an MLB-worst WHIP of 1.67.
So far this Spring, Romero’s ERA is 6.38 and he’s allowed 11 base runners in 5.2 innings. He still looks like a pitcher trying to find his way.
“I felt a little off compared to my first two starts,” he said after failing to make it through the three innings of work he was scheduled for against the Tigers, his afternoon ending after two. “I felt like I was rushing pretty much all game and I couldn’t make that adjustment. Three walks, that’s what kills you. If there was anything I’m disappointed with it’s that.
“Right now we’re keeping it fastball-change-up, just trusting that fastball and I didn’t do a good job commanding the heater and that kind of hurt today.”
Romero’s line Saturday: Two innings, three hits allowed, along with three walks and a wild pitch. He gave up two runs though just one was earned, but would have given up another were it not for a nice play at the plate thanks to a picture-perfect relay from Jose Bautista to Adam Lind on a hard-hit shot to right in the second.
He started the game off 0-2 on Tigers lead-off hitter Jeff Kobernus but walked him and otherwise never seemed to have command over what he wanted to be doing.
“You get up 0-2 and you want to put the guy away and you kind of smell it and right now in spring, I’m kind of over-throwing a bit or coming off my delivery instead of being nice and smooth. That can’t happen, you can’t walk hitters when you’re up 0-2,” he said.
A homerun to right centre by Andy Dirks was hit on a line; Bautista never had to move.
Romero stalked off the mound after the first inning slapping his thigh in frustration. The second inning was even sloppier as Romero faced seven batters, walked two and allowed one to score on a wild pitch.
A shaky early spring after an off-season marked with minor elbow surgery and plasma-rich platelet therapy to treat on-going quadriceps tendonitis problems makes Romero — who earned Cy Young votes after a stellar 2011 season — the most significant question mark on what is expected to be a deep and effective starting rotation for Toronto.
“Physically I felt good,” said Romero.”
It is early. There is comfort in that.
And it is spring. It’s worth noting that Romero left Florida with an ERA of 7.91 and a WHIP of 1.71 before having a career-year in 2011.
But for now Romero appears like he’ll need every minute of his time in Florida to get right for the trip north and a critical season that lies beyond.
“You take it for what it’s worth,” he said. “This is what spring is all about. If you want [bad starts] to happen it’s now. I don’t want to walk guys but there is only so much you can do in 35 or 45 pitches. But I should have got into three innings and I’m disappointed I didn’t.”
“I’m not going to get frustrated over this.”