Toward the end of spring training in 2009, Ricky Romero was struggling to the point where the Toronto Blue Jays were seriously considering sending the former No. 1 draft pick back to the minors once again.
Only the last-second intervention of former pitching coach Brad Arnsberg convinced the Blue Jays brass to hold off on that decision so he could try to iron out some of the kinks in the left-hander's delivery.
Romero listened and learned and made the team out of spring training and went on to enjoy a terrific rookie season.
The 25-year-old Californian continues to repay the Blue Jays a debt of gratitude, last night flirting with a no-hitter in his second outing of the season against a befuddled group of Chicago White Sox batters.
In the end, Romero settled for a one-hitter - broken up no less by former teammate Alex Rios with a home run in the eighth inning - as the Blue Jays (6-2) dismissed the White Sox with a tidy 4-2 victory to even the four-game American League set at one game apiece.
"It was definitely fun," said the easy-going Romero, savouring his first win of the year. "Any time you get a chance to do some of those things that rarely ever happen in baseball, it's fun."
The only drawback to Romero's gem was the paltry attendance of 12,167, quite the contrast to the 46,321 who packed Rogers Centre the night before for the Jays' regular-season home opener.
Commanding a change-up that corkscrewed many a Chicago hitter into the batter's box, Romero was on his game despite the sparse turnout, giving notice early that it was his night.
After Toronto third baseman Edwin Encarnacion made a nice diving stab to take away a hit from Chicago batter Omar Vizquel leading off the game, Romero reared back to record back-to-back strikeouts of Gordon Beckham and Carlos Quentin.
That was the pattern of the night, as Romero concluded with 12 strikeouts, a career high.
"It was fun to watch," Toronto outfiedler Vernon Wells said. "He was as dominant as anybody could be tonight. The thing with him, his stuff is so good that once he harnesses it and realizes how good he really is and what he's capable of doing on the mound he can do things like this."
Romero had a perfect game going through the first three innings before it was spoiled by a walk surrendered to Carlos Quentin in the fourth, one of two he gave up in the game along with a hit-batter.
The Toronto offence did its part, scoring twice in the third inning when Vernon Wells doubled home Alex Gonzalez from first base for the game's first run. Wells would later score on a single by Lyle Overbay.
The Blue Jays tagged on two more in the fifth on a double by Encarnacion.
After that, all the attention was on Romero's no-hit bid, which would have been the second in franchise history. Dave Steib set the standard on Sept. 2, 1990, when he shutout the Cleveland Indians 3-0.
The drama came to a sudden end in the Chicago eighth. First, Romero grazed the foot of A.J. Pierzynski with a pitch to give the Chicago batter a free pass to first base.
Up next was Rios, the former Blue Jays outfielder who has been booed relentlessly during the two games. He repaid the fans by breaking up the no-hitter when he lofted a 2-1 Romero changeup over the left field wall for a two-run home run.
All Romero could do was hang his head on the mound for a few moments before he recovered to get the next three Chicago batters.
As Romero walked off the mound at the end of the inning to a standing ovation, he tipped his cap in appreciation.
Reliever Kevin Gregg came into the game and pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to seal the victory for Toronto.
The one-hitter was the 19th in Blue Jays history.Report Typo/Error
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