Romero provides relief for Jays

Blue Jays starter Ricky Romero pitches against the Marlins at Marlins Park in Miami, Fla., June 22,...

Blue Jays starter Ricky Romero pitches against the Marlins at Marlins Park in Miami, Fla., June 22, 2012. (SARAH GLENN/Reuters)

KEN FIDLIN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:39 PM ET

MIAMI - Ricky Romero has pitched better games. Lots of them, in fact.

But while the Toronto Blue Jays starter's command might have been a bit off Friday night, his timing was impeccable.

“It was much-needed,” said Romero after Toronto’s 12-5 victory over the Miami Marlins.

The most important number, aside from the final score, on this night for the Jays was seven. It's the number of innings Romero logged in a game where, once again, he didn’t have his best stuff. He gave up seven hits, including home runs by Giancarlo Stanton and Omar Infante, walked four and threw 110 pitches.

“Getting through seven felt good,” said Romero. “I escaped some trouble but I was able to make pitches and get out of innings. It’s been a grind. Nothing has come easily for me this year, that’s no secret. I’m battling and grinding and trying to do everything possible to get deep into the game.

“I’ve been lucky. The hitters have done their part just about every time I pitch. They’ve bailed me out of some tough spots.”

Indeed, the Toronto offence is on a serious roll right now. In this one, Brett Lawrie continued to shine as leadoff man, getting on base with three hits and a walk, scoring each time. Jose Bautista knocked in three runs with a homer and a broken-bat single. Kelly Johnson also drove in three runs with a pair of sacrifice flies and a single.

“I can’t say it’s a conscious effort on their part to make up for some uncertainties as far as our rotation and overall pitching is concerned, but they’ve swung the bats with a lot of confidence,” said Jays manager John Farrell.

Combined with Thursday’s day off, Romero’s sturdy performance Friday gave all of Toronto’s relievers, save for Robert Coello and newcomer David Pauley, a much-needed respite as the team tries to get control of the revolving door in their bullpen. Coello and Pauley shared the last two innings of mop-up duty Friday while the six other relief arms were quiet.

“Ricky pitched well enough to get through seven innings,” said Farrell. “He battled in some key spots. Like all of us, he’s still a work in progress.”

Coming off a series in Milwaukee where the bullpen was forced to work 16 1/3 of 25 innings in three games, the Jays have now gotten rest for several arms who worked multiple innings in that set.

“You just have to go play,” said Lawrie, who is hitting .328 with an on-base percentage of .400 and 17 runs scored in 16 games as Toronto’s leadoff man.

“You can’t worry about the pitching staff. We just worry about getting back in the dugout, getting on base and scoring as many runs as we can.”

Lawrie set the tone in his first at-bat, looping the second pitch of the game down the line into the right-field corner for a triple. He scored on a Colby Rasmus grounder to the shortstop.

The Jays got two more runs in the third, with Lawrie at the front of the line in that inning as well. He singled to lead off, went to second on a Rasmus groundout and scored on Bautista’s broken bat single. Bautista went to third on an Edwin Encarnacion’s single and scored on Kelly Johnson’s sacrifice fly to centre.

Toronto scored three more times in the fourth and chased starter Anibal Sanchez in the process. Back-to-back one-out singles by Romero -- the second of his career -- and Lawrie set the stage for three consecutive walks, two of them with the bases loaded. Johnson finished off the rally with his second sac fly of the evening.

With Toronto leading 6-0 through the top of the fourth, the Marlins scored single runs in the fourth and fifth, but the Jays piled it on with five more runs in the sixth to put the game out of reach.

Farrell would like nothing more than to get some more starters to go deep into games to take the pressure off of the Jays relievers. He’s working with an eight-man bullpen and only dreams of the day when he can go back to seven.

“Unless we go through the turns of the rotation a couple of times and guys are running out there for seven innings a night, minimum six, that might give us some flexibility and freedom to go to a more conventional bullpen arrangement,” Farrell said.

AA LEANING TO BUY

In the midst of roster turmoil that has forced him to make 14 transactions involving 33 players since May 27, Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos hasn’t lost sight of the prize. Asked if he thought his team was still in a position for him to be a buyer at the trade deadline, the GM was upbeat.

“I think so,” he said. “The way the roster is constructed we have, for the most part, control over our players. We have a core in place. Ideally you’d love to make a transaction for a player you’d have beyond 2012 that will allow you to do your best to win in 2012 but also have opportunities beyond that.

“That being said, we wouldn’t rule out a good player who was only under control for 2012. In a perfect world, I would always prefer to take on a player with more control. It just fits more with what we’re doing. But we aren’t ruling out short-term players as well.”

CLOSE ON PICKS

Anthopoulos is still optimistic the club’s two unsigned top draft picks among their first 14 selections, first-rounder Marcus Stroman and second-rounder Chase DeJong will be signed by the July 13 deadline.

“We’re close on DeJong,” said Anthopoulos, “but it’s never certain until they actually sign.”

The suggested slot money for Stroman is $1.8 million and it’s believed the Jays will have enough left over from their draft allotment to go slightly over that.


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