I know — it’s just baby steps for now; but as far as even that goes, Tuesday was a pretty significant one for the Toronto Blue Jays and their former ace.
For the first time in his pro career, Ricky Romero stepped up to the mound not as a starter, but as a reliever. And for the first time in what feels like forever, the lefty didn’t look eye-gougingly terrible against another big-league opponent.
No, his outing was far from perfect, and the 28-year-old did allow a run on a hit and two walks. However, he did manage to get his first three outs in order, two of them on grounders and one via a strikeout. Compared for the three runs on four hits and two walks over the 0.1 IP that the Blue Jays saw in his last outing back in May, his 23 strikes in 38 pitches were practically Cy Young-like.
That, however, is about where the roses end.
Though it’s hard not to be rooting for the guy when he’s putting up 1-2-3 innings as he did in the seventh inning of a blowout loss to the Los Angeles Angels … let’s remember that is was a mop-up job in a blowout loss to the Angels. That should speak to just how much faith the team has in Romero nowadays, and why it’s likely that he’ll be removed from the 40-man roster once more when the season is over, according to GM Alex Anthopoulos.
And they have good reasons to be skeptical, too. See, despite his relatively harm-free first-ever relief outing, the southpaw still seems to have either a control issue or a hesitation to attack batters. He fell behind in a 2-0 count to four of the nine batters he faced, and started off six of those at-bats with ball one.
That’s surely not the confidence and conviction that the team is looking for or what he’ll need to make any headway in the 2014 rotation … but baby steps, right?
Now, assuming that he gets a handful of relief appearances over these final weeks of the season, and assuming that those baby steps turn into bigger strides (it’s banking on a lot of faith, I know) — how might he fit into the overall picture of the 2014 Blue Jays pitching staff?
The thing is, in the best case scenario for the team, he might not fit in at all.
As Romero had never pitched in relief until Tuesday and he’s not being paid $15 million over the next two years to do it, you’d have to think that while the team is just hoping to keep him busy in relief, and have no intention on actually converting him to relief full-time, especially since he neither has the repertoire nor the significant splits for it.
At the same time, the best case scenario might only see him competing for a back-end spot on the rotation; and even there, his leash would be non-existent. They haven’t come out and said it, but it’s hard to ignore the nagging feeling that the team would rather part ways amicably with the lefty … preferably without being on the hook for all that money.
With the emergence of Todd Richmond and the resurgence of Esmil Rogers, the team should have more than enough arms to compete for a backend spot, and frankly, adding Romero to the mix does not make the group better at this point.
Could Romero entice another team to pick up his remaining salary with a few strong outings? Can Anthopoulos parlay any goodwill gained by the lefty in September into a trade at the Winter Meetings?
It’s hard to say at this point, but it is one scenario to bring a little more clarity to the Blue Jays’ pitching staff next season, and one that may benefit both parties. They say you can never have enough depth at starting pitching, but then again, maybe “they” never found themselves with a conundrum like Ricky Romero, you know?