The Blue Jays sent Ricky Romero to Triple-A Buffalo on Thursday, the morning after he had lasted one-third of an inning against the Tampa Bay Rays and after the game, disagreed mildly with manager John Gibbons' decision to pull him from the game.
Staked to a 2-0 lead by Edwin Encarnacion's first-inning homer at Tropicana Field on Wednesday, Romero retired only one of seven batters faced, allowing two walks, three runs and four singles before being replaced. He made 29 pitches.
"It's his call," Romero said, when asked about the early hook. "I'm not going to sit here and question the manager. He makes those decisions. The competitor in me obviously didn't want to come out of that game."
The Jays had won three straight before the 10-4 loss on Wednesday. They finish the four-game series on Thursday, with 2012 Cy Young winners R.A. Dickey and David Price scheduled to pitch.
Last season, Romero lost confidence along with command of his pitches (9-14, 5.77 ERA, 105 walks). Toward the end of regular spring training this year, Blue Jays pitching coach Pete Walker began making minor adjustments to Romero's delivery even as Gibbons and general manager Alex Anthopoulos insisted that Romero would be a member of the starting five once the season began.
When Romero looked helpless in a minor-league outing, the club decided to make a more extensive overhaul and kept the left-hander in Dunedin as the club went north to start the regular season.
Romero returned on May 3 to pitch three strong innings before relapsing, ultimately allowing three runs in four innings in a loss to the Seattle Mariners. In tandem with making physical changes to his windup, the club had also hoped to rebuild his psyche during the extended spring.
"You consider all that stuff but I have a responsibility to 25 guys on the field," Gibbons said after Wednesday's game, explaining the early hook. He added: "We were still in the game, we'd scored two, and they were on the verge of blowing it out. I thought he was a little tentative. … It was a struggle for him. It's tough on everybody. I mean, you feel for the guy. He'll figure it out; he's got to figure it out."
With Romero (0-2, 12.46 ERA) pitching deliberately, Gibbons ordered Gonzalez to get ready in the bullpen after five Rays had come to the plate. Called up Wednesday to replace J.A. Happ, Gonzalez would allow five runs in 4-2/3 innings, including two-run homers by Longoria and Kelly Johnson. Gibbons complimented Gonzalez for the "tremendous job" of getting the Jays out of the first-inning jam – he retired the bottom two hitters of the Tampa order – yet the Jays also designated him for assignment on Wednesday.
The two spots are being filled with Ramon Ortiz, 39, and Mickey Storey, 27, both called up from Buffalo.
Ortiz, who will to start Friday's game in Boston, made one appearance for the Jays on April 17, allowing two runs in 3-2/3 innings. Storey (0-1, 3.93) pitched for Houston last year.
Brandon Morrow is now pushed to Sunday - he tweaked his back throwing in the bullpen.
Gibbons said the Romero decision was made immediately after Wednesday's game, although he later told reporters that Romero would take his next start. Romero appeared to be aiming the ball at times on Wednesday, perhaps thinking about his mechanics rather than pitching freely and easily.
"I said last night he's a little tentative and you can't be that way up here," Gibbons said Thursday, during a pre-game session with reporters. "Let him go down, pitch some games, and we'll see what happens."
Pitching coach Pete Walker said it's "easy to say now" that the club brought Romero up prematurely, after only one Single-A game, but added all the reports they had received were favourable. He thought Romero's delivery and location of his pitches had improved.
"Our situation up here was a tough one with the need [for a reliable starter]," Walker said. "Everybody felt that he was ready to come up and do what he needed to do. It just didn't work out right now but I do see him coming back very soon. I don't think he's very far off at all and it could be a quick turnaround.
Gibbons expressed little confidence after Wednesday's game in Romero's ability to get out of the first-inning pickle. Romero thought the numbers looked worse than the actual performance, said he felt good mechanically and was content with the pitches he'd made, though the singles were all hit crisply.
"Obviously you're in front of a lot of people and everyone expects so much out of you – so do I," said Romero, speaking softly in the clubhouse on Wednesday. "That's what a lot of people forget sometimes. I'm a competitor, I work hard and I put so much effort into everything I've done. I don't see this as a step back."
Notes: Brett Lawrie went 0-for-5 and is now 5-for-37 as the leadoff slot. … The Jays went into the seventh behind 10-2 and Jose Bautista got thrown out at third, trying to advance on a grounder to Yunel Escobar at short. … Later in the inning, J.P. Arencibia was held up rounding third on a single, only for Encarnacion to occupy third. Arencibia came home when the throw was fumbled by catcher Jose Lobaton. … Toronto came back from seven- and three-run deficits on Monday and Tuesday, and threatened again Wednesday in the fifth with the score 6-2 against starter Matt Moore (6-0). Mark DeRosa ended the inning by fanning on a high-outside fastball, on a full count. DeRosa started at second base for the first time since May 1, 2010, when he played for San Francisco.