As part of TSN.ca's 2013 MLB Season Preview, we will be rolling out stories this week on five pressing questions facing the Toronto Blue Jays this season. The first question facing the team: What should be done about struggling starter Ricky Romero?
The Blue Jays 2012 starting rotation had a lot of question marks, but the one constant was believed to be Ricky Romero's ability to give the team a chance to win every five days.
Unfortunately, Romero's year did not quite go as planned.
After three seasons of improvement in virtually every major pitching category, Romero scuffled last season.
Romero started the season strong, with an 8-1 record as of late June. But signs of struggle emerged early, even while the 27-year-old was winning.
Romero set a career-high for walks in a month in May, issuing 25 free passes. In June his ERA hit an ugly 7.33. His July WHIP eclipsed 2.00 and by August he was staring down the barrel of a skid that would eventually extend to 15 consecutive starts without a victory.
The team took a load off his mind in the off-season by loading up the rotation with R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle.
After a season of struggles, Romero entered the spring of 2013 with loads of veteran help and the added ease of being penciled in as the Jays' number-five starter, meaning fewer games against ace opposition.
But this spring has not been pretty for Romero. In 8.2 innings so far this spring, the lefty has surrendered eight runs (seven earned), three home runs and logged a WHIP of 2.08.
Last Thursday's minor league start was not pretty either: Four runs, five walks, zero strikeouts in just 2.1 innings and throwing more balls than he did strikes.
Complicating the matter is J.A. Happ: An experienced starter who has been one of the Jays' best starters this spring despite the knowledge that the starting rotation was likely locked.
So what do the Jays do about Romero?
TSN.ca's Scott MacArthur has been following the Jays all season and thinks Romero might need time to sort himself out.
He writes: "In the new Blue Jays' rotation, Romero doesn't have to be the guy who won 15 games and had a 2.92 ERA in 2011. Good thing, too, because he appears to be a shell of his former self.
I think the best thing for the organization and for Romero is to start him at Triple-A. He's owed at least $23.1-million over the remainder of his contract so the Blue Jays have to get this right. These "minor tweaks" to Romero's delivery provide the perfect excuse for the demotion, allowing both club and player to save face.
Heck, shorten his final spring start and whisper about Romero being bothered by the tendinitis in his knees. There are ways to publicly protect everyone involved.
The key for Romero is to effectively throw his power sinker -- he must throw it more often and he must keep it down in the zone.
The investment in Romero - a former first round pick, his development, his contract - is deep. J.A. Happ is a capable fifth starter and has had a good spring. He'd do the job just fine.
Romero may not see it this way but the best thing for him is to refine his delivery and clear his head away from the fishbowl Toronto's become for him. On potential alone he's got plenty left in the tank. This needs to be handled delicately but also correctly. Starting the season in Buffalo is the correct move.”
What do you think?
Should Romero be allowed to start the year in hopes that he reacts well to “the real thing”? Or does the combination of his poor spring and Happ's solid play mean that Romero will have to pitch his way back into the Blue Jays' starting rotation?
As always, it's Your! Call.