NEW YORK – The Toronto Blue Jays don’t have a timeline in mind for left-hander Ricky Romero’s return but the way things are going, the sooner he’s ready the better.
Romero debuts his reworked mechanics Saturday for single-A Dunedin at Brevard County and he’s expected to throw 60-75 pitches over four or five innings, pitching coach Pete Walker said Friday.
How many starts Romero needs before he’s ready for a recall, “depends on how he pitches and how he bounces back and how good the results are,” explained Walker. “Obviously if the results are good, he’s feeling great and everything seems to be clicking, I’m sure he’ll progress quickly.”
That would be the ideal scenario for the Blue Jays, who are carrying two sore starters and an overworked bullpen. Aaron Laffey lasted just 2.2 innings Friday night in a spot start covering for Josh Johnson, who sat out with triceps tightness.
The outing Saturday marks the end of a month-long process for Romero, who reworked his delivery to “make sure I finish pitches, create an angle on the ball and finish sound through the ball.”
“Sometimes I had a tendency to stand straight up and not let my arm finish,” he told Sportsnet’s Tony Ambrogio in Brevard County, Fla. “Since Day 1 I’ve been committed, me and Dane (Johnson, Blue Jays pitching co-ordinator) have worked so hard the past month, you want to be out there and pitching and stuff like that, and throughout all this I’ve seen a light at the end of the tunnel, it’s been all positive.”
Romero was demoted March 26 after his pitching motion showed no signs of stabilizing over the course of a rough spring. He and Johnson have worked relentlessly on ensuring his motion drives toward home plate, with other tweaks such as not bringing his hands over his head any longer.
Asked when he envisions a return to the Blue Jays, Romero said, “as soon as possible.”
“We’ll get this ball rolling (Saturday) and we’ll see from there,” he continued. “Everything has been one day at a time, one step at a time and the thing this has taught me the most is patience. I’m an impatient person and I like to get going and I’ve been patient. At times it’s a little frustrating, too, it’s frustrating being down here, but I haven’t let any of that get in the way of getting the work done that I came here to accomplish. I’m hoping from here to carry it on, and I’ll see you soon Toronto.”
Romero’s arm strength remains fairly built up and his recent stints in intrasquad games pushed him into the 75-pitch range, so he’s working off a decent base.
Results alone won’t be as important a barometer of his progress as how his stuff looks.
“Pounding the zone, feeling good, throwing his pitches for strikes consistently and just overall command of his fastball, that’s the No. 1 priority right now, and he’s shown that so far down there,” said Walker. “I’ll be getting in touch with Dane and I’m looking forward to hearing about the results.”