October 3, 2012
Blue Jays' Ricky Romero confident he'll get his swagger back
By STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency
TORONTO - Throughout his late-season swoon this year, Ricky Romero handled himself well; facing the media after every poor start, refraining from any epic temper tantrums, even being the go-to guy when it was celebrity-opening-pitch time, like when Wayne Gretzky took the mound at the Rogers Centre on Monday.
So it was a bit surprising to see the fourth-year Blue Jay go on the defensive on Wednesday when asked, given his second-half slump, where would he expect to find himself in the rotation next year.
“If you guys are dictating my future on one year, then I think a lot of people have it all wrong,” said the 27-year-old lefty, his indignation rising. “I know where I stand, I know what I can do.”
Heading into the 2012 season, where Romero stood was a no-brainer. He was the club’s ace, a 2011 all-star with a 15-11 record and 2.92 ERA. Now there are no guarantees that he’ll be even at the top of the rotation for the 2013 season given his track record of the last three months. Romero started the 2012 campaign 8-2, but through July, August and September, went 1-12. On top of that, GM Alex Anthopoulos said Wednesday that the starting rotation will be his top priority in the off-season and he expects to spend a good portion of the extra money Rogers gives him on the rotation.
“We just need quality,” Anthopoulos said. “And if we can go get five front-of-the-rotation guys, we’re certainly going to do it. You look at the best quality you can get. That’s what it’s going to come down to. The rotation needs to get better. Absolutely, major additions. We’re not close to where we need to be.”
Anthopoulos is banking on Romero bouncing back. But after watching his ace struggle over the last three months, AA admitted that he doesn’t really have a handle on why Romero’s performance went south, but it’s something the organization will definitely explore in the weeks ahead.
“I don’t know that today I’m prepared to answer that question,” said Anthopoulos, when asked if he had a definitive answer for what ailed Romero. “I have a lot of different theories and ideas. It’s so tough to pinpoint. Is it mechanics? We obviously tried all kinds of things and there was a lot of trial and error throughout the season, and we waited for him to come out of it.
“But we’re willing to spend a lot of time on it in the off-season, taking a look at more things,” the GM added. “Right now, maybe all you do is chalk it up to (the fact) that it was a down year for him. His work ethic was outstanding, his stuff is still the same, velocity was still the same. Obviously the walk rate is what really spiked, and then falling behind in the count and then, conversely, the strikeout rate dropped and so on. But I don’t know if right now I know the answer. Guys are entitled to have a bad year, and that’s what happened to him.”
Romero said he doesn’t really have an answer either, but he vowed to do whatever necessary to get back on track, including changing his off-season training regimen.
“I have some areas where I need to work and I’ll head down to the training facility that I train at and figure out what went wrong this year and try to fix those things,” he said.
“It’s a group of things I got to do. You just have to find your weaknesses. Obviously I’ve got to get myself healthy, completely healthy — the knee (he tweaked in his last start) and stuff like that.”
Despite his 9-14 record and 5.77 ERA this year, Romero believes in his heart that he is still the Jays’ ace. And the Jays need him to regain his form of seasons past if they expect to have any success next season and beyond. Even with a free agent or two and/or the emergence of a quality starter in-house next year, the Jays aren’t necessarily playoff-bound if Romero doesn’t regain past form. The lefty understands that and is willing to do what the club needs him to do, including dropping down in the rotation.
“I’m just happy to pull on a big league uniform and go out there and give the team the best chance to win,” he said. “To me it’s never mattered whether I’m 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 (in the rotation). I’ve always said, I just want to win. That’s pretty much it.”