Will Ricky Romero win another game for the Toronto Blue Jays? In 2012, I mean.
Despite pitcher wins/losses not being relevant metrics to gauge a pitcher’s performance by, the eye-catching string of L’s has been the gateway to the topic of Romero’s 2012 struggles. The latest, a relatively safe home start against the Seattle Mariners on extended rest, drew Romero the short hook after 87 pitches on 4+ innings, in which he allowed 3 earned runs on 8 hits and 4 walks. Romero’s night finished with that familiar cold stare into the dugout as he handed the ball over, his body language signaling both frustration and bewilderment. Yeah, you could probably say that Romero probably wasn’t too pleased to be taken out of the game by John Farrell with 2 men on base, but then again, I doubt the Blue Jays manager is all that pleased with Romero’s performance these days.
Not that there’s much else the Blue Jays can do about it now – they were committed to riding out Romero’s rough patch from the start, even if the patch turned out to be most of the season. As Farrell said post-game, the team is “not abandoning Ricky Romero. We’re going to continue to work with him, we’re going to continue to finish this year on a positive note, and that is our intent going forward.”
Going forward, then. Even if forward isn’t exactly a pretty picture for the Blue Jays starting rotation. Here’s approximately how the 2013 starting five lines up:
1. Brandon Morrow
In many ways, it’s one area in which the team has taken a rather large step backwards. Going into this season, the Blue Jays were confident in at least having Romero and Morrow around at the top, with Henderson Alvarez trying to stay above water (which hasn’t happened, really) after Brett Cecil pitched himself out of the rotation in spring training. Now, at season’s end, it’s not exactly a stretch to say that only Brandon Morrow is guaranteed a spot on the rotation next season.
By that, I mean there’s little that Morrow could do in spring that would convince the Blue Jays not to roll with him at the top in ’13. It would have almost been inconceivable that Romero would not be in the same situation back a few months ago, before the massive losing streak, when he was simply struggling with his control; but now? Certainly, the plan is to have Romero start the ’13 season in the rotation, but the leash gets shorter with every struggle. If the lack of control carries over in the off-season into spring training, it’s at least a possibility (though admittedly remote) that Romero does not start next season in the big leagues. In other words, Romero could end up being this year’s Brett Cecil.
It wouldn’t be in the Blue Jays’ best interest for the Ricky Romero problem to get to that point, of course; but considering that the 2013 season will be the first one under the “rebuild complete” banner from the front office, the team doesn’t have as much room to maneuver around things like riding out tough spots, or having players learn the game at the MLB level. With Paul Beeston stating that this off-season will be an aggressive one for the Blue Jays, there will be more of an onus placed on winning ball games in 2013 – you might even say next season will be the first significant metric to be used to evaluate the handiwork of Alex Anthopoulos since he took over.
All of this is a long way of saying that Romero will likely not be given the kind of room next season. The stock of goodwill from the lefty’s 2011 All-Star campaign is running a little dry now, with little time left for some late-season redemption. 2013 is a while away from now, but a clean slate for Romero isn’t necessarily going to be in the books, not with a league-worst starter’s ERA and disappearing control for almost an entire season. If it ends up being more of the same come next spring, the Blue Jays may well be forced to be looking at a starting rotation without Romero in the mix.