Oh, Ricky Romero. Where did it all go oh-so wrong?
Was it when the former ace and All-Star of the Toronto Blue Jays from 2011 decided to tough out a lingering elbow injury last season that wound up requiring surgery? Did it affect his mechanics so much that’s he’s had to make change it in a brutal 2013 Grapefruit League campaign in spring on the heels of a disastrous 2012?
In fact … is the lefty still pitching hurt after recovering from minor surgery, even though he’s insisted that it’s not the case?
Those questions are going to linger until Romero finds his way back from his exile to the minor leagues, but his fall from grace has been equal parts stunning and foreseeable.
They say that Spring Training numbers don’t count, but if you ask Blue Jays fans, Romero himself, or J.A. Happ, the new owner of a two-year (potentially three) extension, chances are they’ll tell you it counts a whole lot in this case.
No, Romero isn’t the only pitcher with a track record of being good who is struggling this spring, but given his circumstances, this was much more of an indictment (rightfully so or not) that there was something that he just hasn’t gotten over.
The team says it’s mechanics. Romero, on the other hand, disagrees. According to John Lott of the National Post, Romero insisted that “if anything needs remedial attention, it his confidence, not his delivery mechanics.”
That confidence must be at an all-time low, I’d imagine. It’d be a reflection of the Blue Jays’ feelings towards him, too, after going through the entire off-season and most of the spring insisting that the team would stick with him as their No. 5 pitcher no matter what, only to change their minds in the last moment.
It’s the speed at which things change in this game, of course — just ask Brett Cecil. Romero knew this, and for whatever reason, he just couldn’t quite catch up.
There’s still light at the end of the tunnel, though. Despite the fact that the 28-year old has falling all the way to the team’s Single-A club in Dunedin, his mindset is still that of a player who has walked amongst the game’s elite. “I’m a major-league pitcher. I’m an all-star for a reason. I’m going to throw out all this stuff because I am confident in my abilities.”
You could read between the lines — there’s disappointment, anger, defiance and determination, even if all of it is in conflict with the adversity he’s facing and the overwhelming, confidence-sapping situation that he’s in.
He’ll simply have to buckle up and deal with it, as broken up as he may be; with the Blue Jays going all-in this year, there won’t be room for any more growing pains.
That’s the type of environment that Romero has dealt with, however, from the days when he was trying to shake the ‘guy drafted before Troy Tulowitzki‘ tag to whether he could handle himself in the team’s post-Shaun Marcum era after a — guess what — shaky spring campaign.
He’s thrived then, and even though the odds are undoubtedly stacked against him now (perhaps more than ever), there’s a good reason to believe that he can do it again.