|Courtesy of Yahoo/The Canadian Press|
Predicament, quandary, plight, crisis; call it what you will, but there's something going on with Ricky Romero.
As much as we're trained to not get too excited about results from Spring Training, just as much as we're not supposed to be too concerned about slow starts in camp, there is a growing concern about the state of Ricky Romero.
Ordinarily, a slow start like Ricky's might not be all that worrisome. Even veteran starters like Mark Buehrle have admitted it takes them a while to find their groove in exhibition games like these. But Ricky Romero's issues are a completely different story.
The whole whirlwind started when the Blue Jays announced they would be tinkering with Romero's mechanics and moving him over on the pitching rubber (perhaps at the suggestion of Mr. Fairservice).
Ordinarily, Spring Training is the opportune time and place for pitchers to experiment. Coaches often suggest varying with pitches and deliveries, as tinkering is the name of the game. The difference with Romero is they weren't just tweaking his delivery.
The Blue Jays brass were selling this as a minor tweak, but this is no minor tweak. It's almost like they were overhauling his mechanics altogether. This isn't merely changing a grip or simply moving Ricky over a few inches.
Not only that, but this is all happening less than two weeks before Opening Day. Not in the infancy of Spring Training in late February ... this is mid-March and games are for real starting April 2nd.
What has me really concerned about this whole Ricky Romero thing is why now? Why did the Blue Jays decide this late in the game to start altering Ricky's mechanics? To me, it sounds like a move of desperation; that they've tried everything they possibly could and this is the last resort.
The final resort of course being Triple A Buffalo, where Ricky Romero could very well find himself starting the season if he doesn't turn things around very soon.
The problem now is time is not on Ricky Romero's side. All eyes will be on him in his final start of Spring Training, which is likely slated to go on Wednesday against the Rays. Even then, we don't know for sure if he'll face the Rays, or make another minor league start.
Sending Ricky to pitch in a minor league game against the Pirates High A affiliate yesterday should've been a red flag from the get-go. But then his line of 64 pitches in 2.1 innings, 5 walks and zero strikeouts were even more cause for concern.
It's not so much the statistics is it is the walks. Ricky Romero only retired seven batters yesterday while walking five. He may be altering his mechanics and be that as he may, but if he can't find the strike zone, that's extremely problematic for the Blue Jays.
It's like Stoeten mentioned on the DJF Podcast yesterday, this whole situation hearkens back to what happened in the past with Brett Cecil. The Blue Jays were kind of coddling Cecil last year also, shifting his starts to minor league games and so forth.
And there were signs of that last year when the Blue Jays bumped one of Ricky Romero's late season starts against the Red Sox, instead opting to give him 11 days rest and start him against the Mariners. It didn't help much.
Last year, Ricky Romero may have convinced himself that he was 100%, but clearly something was wrong. And whatever was wrong just compounded itself over months and months, and here we are now at a boiling point.
I don't want to say the Blue Jays have an epidemic here with Ricky Romero, but it's getting pretty close. As a guy with four seasons of big league experience under his belt, Romero should still have the benefit of the doubt, though.
There's no doubt Ricky's leash is progressively getting shorter and shorter with each progressively shaky start in Spring Training. If that carries over into the regular season, the Blue Jays likely won't hesitate to make the call to Buffalo.
All of this is further complicated by the fact that J.A. Happ is essentially breathing down Ricky Romero's neck, salivating at the opportunity to break camp with the club in the starting rotation. Subtract Happ from this whole scenario and it's not nearly the pandemic it is.
The Blue Jays are obviously trying to be as diplomatic as possible with Ricky Romero, but at what point do they take off the kid gloves and make the choice to send him down to the minors?
Assuming that Ricky continues to struggle, you can look at it one of two ways; either hold Ricky back in Buffalo to start the season, or parade him out there every fifth day and he continues to get lit up. Which of those scenarios would be worse for Ricky Romero's psyche?
As a franchise that prides themselves on doing things the "right way", one can see why the Blue Jays are trying to do everything possible to right the ship with Ricky Romero. They are not about to give up on the man who was this team's Opening Day starter the past two seasons.
But the longer he continues to struggle, the easier the decision the Blue Jays will have to make on when to pull the parachute on Romero's free-fall.