Ricky Romero will make a pre-season start once more after today, but it’s hard to envision him being able to pull his spring out of the fire if this afternoon’s outing against the Pittsburgh Pirates goes tits up. So, with that in mind, I’m going to live blog every pitch of today’s outing, which can be heard via this page at this page at MLB.com.
Sound about right? OK, then, let’s do this…
John McDonald, newly acquired from Arizona, is in the lineup for the Pirates, which… isn’t going to help Romero if he can’t throw strikes. So are the regulars for the Jays, who cares?
Romero actually gets ahead of the first batter, Starling Marte. He throws a first pitch strike– no, really– and then gets a foul before Marte slaps the ball to right field for a single.
Marte steals, and Romero throws a ball to start off batter number two, Felix Pie– though Mike Wilner and Dirk Hayhurst on the broadcast are incredulous about the call. Pie bunts Marte to third, then Gabby Sanchez grounds out to plate the run.
Romero gets ahead of Pedro Alvarez, but on pitch two he connects and singles up the middle.
He starts off with a ball inside to catcher Mike McHenry, but follows it up with a strike, then a hard ball to left is caught spectacularly by Rajai Davis. That ends the inning, and while a couple balls squeaked through for hits, it was pretty good for Romero. He was efficient and got ahead in counts. John Lott tweets that it was 13 pitches and ten strikes– not bad, but the aggressive Pirates certainly didn’t make it terribly difficult, as noted by Dirk Hayhurst on the broadcast.
As John Lott tells us in the National Post that J.A. Happ appears to be heading north with the Jays– as a long man, ostensibly, thanks to the roster spot opened by Brett Lawrie’s placement on the DL– Romero steps back onto the hill to face Garrett Jones, now with a 3-1 lead.
Romero starts Jones with a ball, and manages to work his way to his first three ball count– 3-2– before Jones hits a double off the wall that gets, according to the broadcast, a significant lift from the wind.
Next up is right fielder Jordy Mercer, who gets himself a four-pitch walk. Ruh-roh. Mercer was taking all the way on pitch four and he missed badly, we’re told, eliciting a visit from Pete Walker. Johnny Mac stands in next with a runner on first.
Fifth straight ball starts the at-bat for McDonald, aaaaand then ball six with a sinker. He finally hits the zone to make it 2-1 with a called strike, before going to 3-1 with a ball missing high. Wilner comments on Romero’s body language, and… yeah, not good. But he comes back with a strike and McDonald hits it out to centre, but he’s out on a nice catch from Bonifacio in centre.
Jonathan Sanchez, the pitcher, is up for the Pirates and attempts a bunt on the first pitch, fouls it off, then “successfully” sacrifices himself on 0-1.
Romero quickly goes up 0-2 on Starling Marte, who then fouls the next pitch off. A high curveball follows– “Ricky just not quite finishing that slow curve,” Hayhurst says of Romero’s mechanics– but on the following pitch Marte strikes out swinging. A bit of a hiccup in the middle of the frame, but Romero has himself another fairly efficient inning. The totals belie that, as he threw 22 pitches, 11 for strikes, and getting to face the pitcher certainly helped, but seven of his final eight pitches were strikes (per Wilner) so… it’s going fairly well.
A quick bottom of the second for the Jays gets Romero right back out into the thick of it– at least, as much as this Pirates skeleton crew offers– set to face Pie, Sanchez and Alvarez to start the third. This kind of crucial start in an otherwise meaningless game, by the way, makes me think about how silly it is that fans and writers talk so much about certain pressure situations in the game, as though these guys don’t face pressure all the way up the ladder to the Majors.
An ugly four pitch walk to Pie opens the third. Ugh. And then it’s ball five to start off Sanchez. Romero follows his bounced first pitch with a strike, then a ball high. Romero gets Sanchez to 3-1, then it’s ball four. “Nine pitches, eight balls,” says Wilner, and it’s chat time, as Arencibia comes out to the mound.
As Wilner and Hayhurst talk about Romero’s occasional inability to finish his pitches, as well as the psychological difficulties he’s going through, Ricky strikes out Pedro Alvarez on a 90 mph cutter. He then follows it up with a first-pitch strike to McKenry for his fifth straight strike.
McKenry comes up with an RBI single to right field, as I get an interesting comment on Twitter from fan Mark Pytlik, who says that Romero “looks even worse whenever warming. He’s throwing five feet wide in every direction.” He adds that “he’s bounced about six warmup pitches to the plate and sent JP lunging high for another half dozen.” Hmmm.
No matter, though, as Romero gets out of the walk-created jam with a double play courtesy Adam Lind, who snagged a shot from Garrett Jones and tagged McKenry. Seventeen pitches, eight strikes that inning for Romero, tweets Barry Davis. It’s 52 pitches, 29 strikes in total, John Lott adds.
A couple of interesting tweets as the Jays were doing whatever they were doing at the plate in the bottom of the third, as Richard Griffin says that Romero “has touched 90 mph a couple of times,” which… he’s always averaged higher than that, though I suppose it’s early. And then there’s David Waldstein of the New York Times, who tweets “Vernon Wells is here, said he was always quietly a Yankee fan, even in Toronto and LA.”
Well then, there goes that legacy.
A couple of quick outs for Romero as I was typing all that. Hayhurst suggests it’s the liberal use of his changeup that is helping him, as he again is having a bit of trouble with finding the strike zone with anything else.
Back-to-back changeups to Jonathan Sanchez– and then a third! The Pirates would seem to be doing Romero a big favour here by hitting their pitcher, but then Sanchez doubles off the wall on a fourth straight change.
Ten strikes on thirteen pitches so far in the fourth, Wilner announces. No need to dance around this Pirates lineup, apparently, but then Romero misses with fastballs at 91 and 89 before getting what should have been an inning-ending ground out, but Adam Lind drops the throw from Mark DeRosa. No need for a throw, says Hayhurst, as the runner Sanchez was plenty close enough for DeRosa to have tagged.
Romero starts Alvarez with a couple of balls, perhaps shaken by the error that extended the inning. Alvarez fouls, then Marte gets picked off, but stays alive long enough for Sanchez– who, incidentally, we ominously compared Romero to on the last DJF Podcast– to score.
The inning is over, and it’s 18 pitches, 12 strikes, according to Wilner, so… Romero continues to be not job-losingly bad.
Congratulations are in order for Ricky Romero, as he’s actually made it to the fifth inning, which a lot of people– myself included– would probably not have bet on an hour-and-a-half ago. With apologies to Scott Lewis, the Pirates haven’t exactly made it difficult, but full credit to Romero. Pie, Sanchez, and Alvarez are due up in the fifth.
First pitch ball, followed by a strike and a foul from Pie. He then hits a pop-up that falls in behind third base, but heads for second and is thrown out by Mark DeRosa. And that’s it! Darren Oliver comes into the game and Romero exits– not particularly happily, Wilner and Hayhurst (and Dave Bidini) note.
Romero was on a 90 pitch count, but he leaves having thrown only 75 pitches, 44 for strikes. That was good for four and a third innings, in which Romero gave up six hits, three walks, three runs (two earned), and struck out two.
He was solid enough– which is perhaps the reason for the quick hook, as the club got him out of there before he had a chance to have a confidence-crushing blow-up fifth– and probably did enough to solidify his spot on the club come Opening Day, provided things don’t go haywire again in his minor league start on the weekend. But that doesn’t mean he has a job in perpetuity, though, and he’ll have to do better in the Majors– especially against real lineups.
That’s also it for the live blog, because, with apologies to Dustin McGowan obviously Romero was the story. Thanks for following along!