If the Blue Jays want their 2013 season to go as they have planned, they’re going to need five solid starting pitchers in their rotation. Today, they have stated that Ricky Romero is going to be filling their number 5 slot when the season opens.
This is a BIG mistake, not only for the team, but for the future of Romero’s career.
Back in 1998, one of the greatest Blue Jays pitchers of all-time was taking the mound for the first time. In his second career start, Roy Halladay nearly pitched a no-hitter, broken up by a solo home run with two outs in the 9th inning. Calling this a tragedy would be an understatement for a rookie pitcher so early on in his career. Halladay’s first couple of seasons went alright and, similarly to Ricky Romero, he was thought of as the Blue Jays future Ace.
That was until Halladay’s year 2000 season. He was terrible. He pitched to the worst ERA in MLB history for any pitcher with at least 50 innings pitched. His career looked to be over before it had even begun.
Romero is looking to be on a similar path. His first couple of seasons were promising, though injuries forced them to be somewhat incomplete. In 2009, Romero could have easily been named Rookie of the Year after a very good season, and then went on to have decent 2010 and 2011 seasons afterwards.
This is where the similarities stop between Halladay’s and Romero’s careers. In my opinion, the Blue Jays organization made a fantastic decision regarding Halladay’s career, and are making a terrible decision with Romero’s.
Roy Halladay was sent down to the minor’s at the beginning of the 2001 season. This move would normally be considered shattering to a pitcher’s confidence, but I view it as a kick in the ass to get to work. Halladay knew his stuff wasn’t good enough to continue in the major’s and his work ethic, along with some great coaching led him to develop new pitches and perfect the ones that had caused him previous troubles.
Ricky Romero, though, has yet to be optioned to the minor’s, despite his constant struggles. Many believe that sending him down would be the same as calling his career in the major’s finished, but I believe it’s exactly what he needs right now.
Last season, Romero was forced to carry the load for an injury-plagued Blue Jays pitching squad. The responsibility proved too much for the young pitcher and he struggled with almost every start. I chalked last season’s losses up to Romero choking under the pressure of being number one, but now, I’m not so sure.
This past off-season, the Blue Jays made more deals than I think they’ve ever made in any previous off-season – – at least more meaningful deals than ever before. Their biggest improvements were made in the starting pitcher role. Adding Dickey, Buerle and Johnson were incredible deals by Blue Jays standards. These deals left the final two spots in the rotation up for grabs, one promised to Morrow (for good reason), the other to Romero (for no good reason).
Romero has gone from opening day starter to 5th man in the rotation in a very short period of time. Though deserved, I’m sure Romero’s confidence has taken a stiff hit, as displayed by his poor spring training outings. Are we really left to believe that sending him to the minor’s would shake his confidence even more? I don’t believe that would be the case at ALL.
In the minor’s, Romero could work on his pitches and gain back the confidence he has lost. Being 5th man in the rotation does not change the caliber of batters he is going to face in every start he makes this season, nor will it change the importance of each of those games to the Blue Jays season. There is no good reason to believe that being relegated to the 5th slot in the rotation should help Ricky Romero.
The Blue Jays need to look at their past, as well as their future. Their strategy with Roy Halladay helped groom him into a future Hall of Famer, but their moves with Ricky Romero could shatter whatever confidence he has left and subsequently end his professional career. The similarities between Halladay and Romero are remarkable, but the differences in their organization’s decisions with them could prove to be the dagger in a potentially great career for Ricky Romero.