Blue Jays: Demotion may be just what Ricky Romero needs

Ricky Romero alone in the outfield grass.
Alone and so far, far way — Ricky Romero begins his season in high-A Dunedin.

About a month ago, I wrote about Ricky Romero’s opportunity to rebuild his career in Toronto. After all of the offseason pitching acquisitions, Romero was delegated to the fifth spot in the Blue Jays’ rotation. I wrote about how the pressure would be off and he could rebound from his forgettable 2012. I wrote about how the increased offensive output would help him break into the win column more frequently.

Well maybe I spoke too soon, because last week, Ricky Romero was sent to the minors.

Not just to triple-A either, Ricky Romero was delegated all the way down to Toronto’s high-A affiliate in Dunedin. The Blue Jays are calling this a convenience move, Dunedin hosts the Blue Jays every spring for the Grapefruit League, and he can simply stay there to work with the pitching staff while the rest of the team heads to Toronto. I suspect this is about confidence as well as his delivery. Ricky Romero has been dealing with nagging injuries, knees and elbows specifically have messed with his pitches, and you can be sure that his confidence was shaky after getting rocked in 2012. Many have likened the move to when Roy Halladay was sent back to Dunedin in 2000, but at that time, Halladay was an up-and-comer, not a former big-league ace. Only two years ago, Romero was sent to the All-Star game, and now he’s riding the bus.

So what’s next for Ricky Romero? Currently, there’s no rush to get him back to Toronto. J.A. Happ is going to fill the fifth spot in the rotation while Romero is away. Without a timetable to get him back up to the show, Ricky Romero will have the opportunity to fine-tune his pitches and could return to his all-star form quickly. The prevailing theory is that by taking the pressure off of Romero, you give him a chance to regain his form and confidence so he can return to Toronto as the ace he once was.

Only a month ago, we all thought Ricky Romero was a lock for the fifth starter position, at least I did. However, a strong spring for Happ, and a weak one by Romero flip-flopped the two of them and Happ pitched his way into the majors. Losing his job to Happ could also be one of the motivators which will put Romero back in Toronto.

In the past, it’s all been about how the pressure of being the Toronto ace was responsible for Romero’s downfall. If he gets moved to the fifth slot, then there’s less pressure to preform and more opportunity to win back the fans. Maybe that was all wrong. Maybe Romero needs the pressure. Let’s face it, all of these professional athletes got where they are by being competitive. Maybe losing his job to Happ will give Romero the kick that he’s been looking for. The message sent by the Blue Jays is clear: If you want a spot on the team, you need to earn it. So, they sent him to the minors where he can prove that he deserves a spot.

One last thought: Ricky Romero could be done. Nagging injuries, broken confidence and an extended trip to the minors could mean that he’s finally had his fall from grace. Maybe he just had a few lucky seasons, and now the rest of the MLB has figured him out. Ricky Romero could be destined to bounce around the minors for the remainder of his career.

However, I’m still optimistic. I like to think that Ricky Romero will earn his spot back in the rotation; he and Happ have extra incentive to pitch well. The battle between them could be the healthy competition that was needed in the Blue Jays’ rotation. Romero will serve his time in the minors and emerge as an all-star once again. As I’ve said before, having too many pitchers is never a problem, and after the Jays’ rotation problems last year, they should be happy to have such a deep roster. Look for Ricky Romero to make a comeback and a statement after this.

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