DUNEDIN, Fla. - Ricky Romero's encouraging start Tuesday was not enough to make up for a rocky pre-season.
The Toronto Blue Jays announced that the left-hander has been optioned to single-A Dunedin of the Florida State League.
The move came shortly after Romero picked up the win in Toronto's 6-3 victory over Pittsburgh. It was considered a make-or-break start for Romero, who had a decent outing but didn't do enough to make up for his spring struggles.
Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos said the left-hander simply ran out of time to make him as good as he should be to be part of the club’s rotation.
“We ran out of time,” Anthopoulos said. “He’s working on something that he hasn’t completed yet. We didn’t have enough time to get him to get him to complete it.”
Romero went 1-1 in five Grapefruit League starts with a 6.23 earned-run average. But his worst outing doesn't show up in the exhibition standings. Romero was lit up in a worrying minor-league start last week, allowing four runs and five walks while retiring only eight batters.
Romero opened last season as Toronto's No. 1 starter, but struggled to a 9-14 record with a 5.77 ERA in 32 starts.
The move Tuesday came hours after Romero allowed six hits, three walks and three runs (two earned) while striking out two over 4 1/3 innings against Pittsburgh.
“Ricky was better today, there’s no doubt about it and he’s making strides,” Anthopoulos said. “You could see it, everything was better but he’s not there yet. Could we have started with him? Sure, and ultimately it may have come in Toronto as well because he’s making strides here. But he’s not ready and he’s not as sharp as he needs to be and he needs more time.”
Dunedin, the club’s affiliate in the advanced-A Florida State League, was chosen because the weather is more conducive for getting in consistent work than teams in the northeast.
“It’s hard to work on things at the big-league level,” Anthopoulos said. “It’s so results oriented.”
The adjustments Romero is making involve him having his hips facing more directly to home plate on his delivery. He tends to throw across his body at times and that hampers his control.
Anthopoulos could not say how long the process would take, but he said that Romero has been showing progress during his work between starts.
“It’s now a matter of carrying over his bullpens to his games,” Anthopoulos said. “And that takes time.”
Romero found himself fighting for the last spot in the rotation this spring after the Jays picked up R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle over the off season.
J.A. Happ, who has pitched well in spring training, will likely get Romero's fifth spot in the rotation. Happ has a spring training record of 1-1 with a 1.89 ERA in six outings, including five starts.
Happ is scheduled to make his first start of the season on April 6 against the Boston Red Sox. The Blue Jays open the season April 2 against the Cleveland Indians at Rogers Centre.
Holdover Brandon Morrow is the other starter.
After his outing Tuesday, Romero seemed encouraged.
"Just focus on positives right now," he said. "I did some great things out there. It was a little bit weird with the weather and some balls kind of fell. I felt great. It's a good start.
"I'm just trying to find that rhythm," Romero continued. "I'm not trying to win the Cy Young or anything this spring. Obviously the results haven't been there and I see it, but it's not like I'm not working. Sometimes I overwork on stuff and try to see the results so quick. I think that's the biggest problem. Sometimes we want to see results right away and it doesn't happen you get frustrated."
Romero has been working with pitching coach Pete Walker on adjusting his delivery. There were times when the fastball didn't come out Tuesday at full velocity.
"Some of those were fastballs, sometimes you kind get a little out of whack and you try to aim and all of a sudden you get back on your horse and then you get back to your normal velocity," he said. "It's just a matter of getting back to that arm angle and not speeding up the body, and when I speed up the body it seems like I'm throwing a grenade to home plate and it's not as fast as it should be. When I stay within myself and stay back within my mechanics it's pretty natural."