Romero uses full repertoire to dominate Pirates

KEN FIDLIN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:34 PM ET

BRADENTON — It was a different Ricky Romero on the mound here Sunday and that suited his manager just fine.

When Romero made his spring debut last week in Lakeland against the Tigers, he went into that game intent on refining his sinker, to the exclusion of some of his other pitches. John Farrell understood, but this time around he wanted to see all of Romero, not just one pitch.

For a rookie manager, one with pitching in his background, Farrell found Romero outing on Sunday against the Pittsburgh Pirates to be a very comforting thing.

Romero worked four scoreless, dominant innings against the Pirates, allowing just one hit and two walks, while striking out six. In the process, he lengthened himself out to 60 pitches.

“Ricky went out and did what we hoped he would do: Just pitch his normal game,” Farrell said. “He did a great job of throwing the ball downhill. His changeup was, at times, unhittable. It was good to see him use all his stuff, rather than trying to work on one individual pitch.”

Romero is a technician for whom process is just about equal to results, especially in this spring session where mistakes can be forgotten quickly.

“It’s about making progress every day,” Romero said. “I feel good right now. It’s not about the results. I couldn’t care less about the four shutout innings. It’s about the execution of pitches. Me and J.P. (Arencibia) did a pretty good job.”

One of the key elements of spring training this season is for rookie catcher Arencibia to develop a rapport with all the starting pitchers. Farrell wants him to become comfortable with each pitchers’s strengths and weaknesses and mesh them with those of the hitters.

That’s perhaps was one of the reasons he wanted to see Romero use all his pitches to test Arencibia’s feel for situations and what to call in those situations.

“We threw good changeups,” said Romero, who is clearly comfortable with Arencibia as his receiver. “We pounded the fastball in and away and then went to the change when we had to. Also threw some good curve balls.”

Romero knows himself inside-out and understands that to take his game to the next level, he will have to refine his command, especially of his fastball, to cut down on walks.

In his rookie year, Romero averaged about four walks per nine innings. Last year he cut that average down to 3.5, a significant improvement, but still a bit high for an elite level pitcher.

Roy Halladay, by comparison, over his career has averaged about 1.9 walks per nine innings. He is the gold standard when it comes to preventing walks.

“Walks are always something I’m trying to improve on,” Romero said. “I say it every year, that I want to cut down on them and that’s again what I’m trying to do.

“The biggest thing for me is getting strike one, getting ahead and then I’m able to let my pitches go from there.”

Another reason Romero is reluctant to rely on spring results is the obvious disparity, especially during these early games, between pitching and hitting. Pitchers are almost always ahead of hitters at this point.

“A lot of these guys are still trying to find their swings and get in that groove that will take them into the season,” Romero said. “Getting a guy out in spring training and facing him again in the regular season are completely different circumstances.”

Farrell knows that, too, but he wants to see his pitchers work their arsenals. Once a pitcher, always a pitcher and he loves to see his pitchers and catchers working over the hitters, no matter what time of year it is.

“If they go in looking for any of two or three pitches, Ricky’s got them lost in the mix,” Farrell said. “He’s got enough velocity to beat guys in when they try to slow the bat down. It was just a very good day overall. He looked much more relaxed, his tempo and delivery were consistent. A clean four innings.”

Given that Brandon Morrow and Romero appear to be in such an advanced state of preparation, it will be interesting to see which one of them gets the opening-day start.

Morrow has seniority in terms of major-league baseball time served, but Romero has been a Jay one year longer.

Either way, the manager can’t go wrong.


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