When the Toronto Blue Jays selected Ricky Romero with the 6th pick of the 2005 draft in 2006, they envisioned a bright future for the southpaw. After parts of 5 seasons in the minor leagues, he made his debut in April 2009, and did nothing but impress Toronto executives and fans. From ’09 to ’11, his win total increased each year from 13 to 15, while his ERA decreased from 4.30 to 2.92. He was proclaimed the staff ace in 2012, being awarded with the Opening Day start, but just a year later, he’s being sent to the minor leagues instead of heading north with the team. What happened?
Romero had a rough 2012, as did most Blue Jay pitchers; a year removed from an All-Star appearance and placing 10th in AL Cy Young voting, the left-hander struggled to a 9-14 record, 5.77 ERA, 1.67 WHIP, and 124 strikeouts in 181 innings pitched (32 starts). Most of his statistics last year were career-lows, but the most alarming one out of his troubled season is the 105 walks he allowed, a career and league-high.
With the off-season makeover Toronto’s roster went through, GM Alex Anthopoulos acquired front-end starters R.A. Dickey and Josh Johnson, as well as crafty veteran Mark Buehrle to fortify the rotation, taking the pressure off incumbents Brandon Morrow and Romero. Instead of dealing with being front and center as the ace, the organization felt Ricky would be able to return to his 2011 form (15-11, 2.92 ERA) as their fifth starter.
However, his poor spring performance (6.23 ERA, 2.08 WHIP, 10 BB in 13 IP) combined with JA Happ’s strong showing (1.90 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 7 BB in 23.2 IP) led John Gibbons and company to make the decision to send Romero to Single-A in order to find himself again. According to reports, the southpaw was blindsided by his demotion, and had this to say to Shi Davidi of sportsnet.ca:
“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 confident in all my capabilities that I can get up there and help that team win.”
Now, I won’t just pick out the negative comments Romero made, he also talked about getting to work and figuring himself out again so he can once again be a contributor at the Major League level:
“(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.”
While I understand him being upset about his demotion, I think using the word blindsided by the team’s decision is a bit much. Did he really think they would bring him north after the performance he put together in Spring Training, especially with the way JA Happ pitched? With the moves Toronto made this winter, they’re expected to win right now, and it’s clear that Happ is the best option to round out the rotation and do just that, even if it means sending a pitcher scheduled to make $7.5 million to the minor leagues.
Later in the sportsnet.ca article, Romero went on to say that he’s not a Minor League pitcher, but a Major League pitcher, and he’s an All-Star for a reason.
He’s absolutely right, he is an All-Star for a reason. He’s an All-Star because in 2011 he was one of the top performance pitchers in the American League. That honor doesn’t hold any weight these days, especially not when he’s consistently posting an ERA and BB/9 rate north of 5.00.
This will be a turning point in Romero’s career, and we’ll soon see exactly what he’s made of. I wish him luck in his quest toward regaining his All-Star form, but it won’t be easy. Some people are already asking whether or not he’s the next Dontrelle Willis- on who took the league by storm, then flamed out horribly. Either way, for Romero to make his way back to the Big Leagues, he’ll have to stop thinking about his past accomplishments and focus on what he’s doing each day.
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