MINNEAPOLIS - In the Blue Jays clubhouse, Ricky Romero looked worried following Toronto's 4-3 loss to the Twins.
He should be.
The ‘ace’ of the Blue Jays staff rolled a five for the second consecutive start -- as in five walks -- and his wildness was the difference Sunday afternoon in Minneapolis.
Romero’s wildness was in stark contrast to the composed performance of Guelph native Scott Diamond who has yet to allow a run in his first two starts of the season for the Twins.
Diamond, who blanked the Angels over seven innings last Tuesday, pulled off the same trick against the Jays as he limited them to five hits, didn’t walk a batter and struck out four in gaining the win.
“Diamond threw strikes, he had an assortment of pitches — fastball, breaking ball and changeup — but most importantly he threw strikes and got ahead,” Jays manager John Farrell said of Diamond, 25.
Diamond threw strikes and Romero did not.
It really was as simple as that on the final day of a 10-game road trip that ended 5-5 on a disappointing note.
“We’ve got to get Ricky right,” Farrell went on. “He’s not been sharp here. This is two starts in a row where the walk totals have been abnormally high for him. It was a battle for him today.”
Mechanically, Romero is a little out of whack.
“Right now it seems from the dugout view that his arm is not catching up (to his body),” Farrell said. “He misses to his arm side, the ball is up and away from a right-hander and when he overcompensates, he’s yanking some pitches down and in to some righties. It’s a matter of staying over the rubber a little bit longer to allow his arm to catch up and then he has a more consistent release to all his pitches.”
The Jays took the first two games of the trip against a reeling Angels club but split that series, split the two games in Oakland and then couldn’t come out with a series win against the Twins, a team with the worst record in the Major Leagues.
“Well, you never like to go just .500,” Farrell said. “We went through a couple of tough teams out west. I thought we played pretty solid baseball all the way around. You’d like to come back 6-4 but we’re not going to take anything away from anybody.
“We’ve got to go home and get things going back the way we started out this road trip out in Anaheim. We’ve got three very good teams coming in this homestand.”
Beginning Monday, the schedule toughens up considerably as the Jays have two at home against Tampa Bay followed by their first two games of the season against the Yankees before a three-game set against the Mets. Then it’s on the road for three more against the Rays and three in Texas against the Rangers.
Over that stretch the Jays had better figure out how to find the plate. In the four games against the Twins they walked a combined 26 batters and have now walked 135 batters on the season.
“It’s far too many free passes,” Farrell said. “We see that, we know that. When you put that many guys on base, you’re asking (for) and creating some issues.”
Romero’s next start is Friday against the Mets and the hope is that between now and then he will sort out his problem.
“It’s more frustration than anything,” Romero said about his inability to throw strikes, especially in the three-run fifth when he walked in a run. “I put the team in a hole early on and they did their best to come back. It’s frustrating. I’m just grinding right now. I’ve got to get back to work and try to find what I’m doing wrong.”
Adding to his frustration is that he knows what he has to fix. He worked on fixing the problem in his side session but then came out and repeated his mistakes.
“I’m rushing my delivery,” Romero said. “I worked on it all week and I think this game just tests you mentally. You have to stay mentally strong and continue to work.”
The Jays, meanwhile, had runners in scoring position against Diamond in three of his innings but couldn’t bust through.
“I never faced Diamond before,” said fellow Canadian Brett Lawrie, who collected a single off him. “He was throwing strikes. There were no excuses. It was nothing overpowering, that’s for sure. He wasn’t throwing 95, he was throwing 87, 88 miles per hour, pretty straight with a little curve and little changeup. It was nothing that this group can’t handle. We just couldn’t pull it together today.”
A bigger problem for the Jays was that neither could Romero.