Ricky Romero is headed back to the minors.
One day after being shelled by the Detroit Tigers, the former Opening Day starter and fellow pitcher Marcus Stroman were sent to the Blue Jays’ minor league camp.
Toronto manager John Gibbons said both pitchers needed more work.
Gibbons tried to soften the blow for Romero, saying the 29-year-old left-hander had pitched well earlier in the spring and was moving in the right direction after two troubled seasons.
“We really like what he did this camp,” Gibbons told reporters Wednesday prior to a Grapefruit League game against the Philadelphia Phillies. “Just go down there and polish it up.”
Stroman, a 2012 first-round draft choice who pitched in Class-AA last season, managed just one out in Tuesday’s 18-4 loss to the Detroit Tigers. The 22-year-old right-hander gave up seven runs on six hits.
“He was kind of the odd man out,” said Gibbons. “He had trouble throwing strikes (Tuesday). He’s got to do that.”
Romero, who is due to make US$7.75 million this season, walked five and threw two wild pitches in 2 2/3 innings. Unofficially he threw 57 pitches, 23 for strikes.
Gibbons said Romero needs to do “whatever it takes” to throw strikes.
He was an all-star in 2011 when he went 15-11 with a 2.92 earned-run average. In 2012, he slumped to 9-14 with a 5.77 ERA and things got worse in 2013, when he saw action in just four games in the majors with an 0-2 record and 11.05 ERA.
He spent most of last season in the minors where he went 5-8 with 5.52 ERA.
“It’s a long road. You never know if a guy’s going to make it back from that or not,” said Gibbons. “But he was starting to show the signs of it. (Tuesday) he wasn’t as good and it just kind of reaffirmed, ‘Hey start him down there, but he’s moving in the right direction.“’
Romero had been a feel-good story earlier in spring training.
Gibbons called him “the big talk of camp” last week after giving up one run in seven innings for an ERA of 1.29 in three appearances. But Romero fell back to earth Tuesday in Lakeland.
He gave up three runs on three hits with five walks, a hit batsman and two wild pitches.
“We’ve taken too many steps forward to dwell on this,” Romero said philosophically afterwards.
Somewhat bizarrely, he referred to a “weird weather day” in noting “the balls were a little slick and just kept coming out of my hand.”
It was a sunny 20-degree day at Joker Marchant Stadium.
Romero has been positive this spring, making an effort to stay in the moment rather than labour in the past or worry about the future. A lot of people have been rooting for him to succeed, including his manager.
“We feel for the guy,” said Gibbons. “It’s not just looking at results. As much work as the kid’s putting in, things like that — the battles he’s going through, mentally — you root for him. You root for him extra hard.
“But we’re encouraged. We’re positive after this camp. He may look at it differently but we feel positive with what he accomplished this spring.”
Romero had left the clubhouse by the time the announcement was made. Gibbons said the pitcher was disappointed at the news.
“And rightfully so. I can’t blame him for that, but hopefully he feels good about how this spring went.”
Despite the positive signs, Gibbons said he always saw Romero as having an outside shot at making the team.
“Personally I thought regardless of the camp he had, it would probably do him some good to start down in the minor leagues in real competition where things are different,” he said. “Just to make sure he’s back to where he needs to be.
“Because you don’t want him to come up and if he’s not ready to start the season, backslides and he may never regroup. So that was kind of my thinking. But that wasn’t everybody’s opinion. If he proved he was ready in spring training, he might have been the guy.”
NOTES — Gibbons said closer Casey Janssen felt “great” after a throwing on the mound Tuesday and will go again Friday. He’s slated to make three or four appearances before the season starts March 31 in Tampa. Janssen has been limited in action to protect against shoulder soreness.
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