July 26, 2012
What You Need to Know
Thursday, July 26
The Wednesday Takeaway
Wednesday’s win was a memorable one for Oakland: The A’s tied the franchise record for the largest margin of victory in a shutout, Coco Crisp—who had three home runs on the season coming in—went deep twice, and Josh Reddick made a catch that sparked the quote of the day, “Yes, I am part spider,” in the clubhouse after the game. For the Blue Jays, it was one to forget.
Toronto Sun beat writer Bob Elliott began his game story by delivering the good news: “Well, the home run horn at the Rogers Centre still works.” The only good news for starting pitcher Ricky Romero was that the horn went untested during his 1 1/3 innings on the mound.
Before his catcher, J.P. Arencibia, left the game with a broken hand, Romero made him work. He threw 66 pitches, only 34 of which went for strikes, and many of which missed by more than a foot. He gave up four hits, including doubles by Josh Reddick and Yoenis Cespedes, but it was the six walks that did him in.
Arencibia somehow retained his sense of humor in the face of both the insult and the injury: “I drink a lot of milk, I’ll be back quick.” Romero shot straight: “It’s completely embarrassing, it’s tough to look my teammates in the eye. This was pathetic. Horrible.”
Wednesday’s disaster was the lowest in a season of lows for Romero, who has gone from burgeoning ace to the bad side of Jonathan Sanchez in less than a year. Before last night, he was 4-0 with a 1.70 ERA in his last six starts against the A’s. Now, he has a 10.48 ERA over his last six starts in general. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg—if you double that span to 12 starts, Romero has a 7.69 ERA, the product of 11 home runs and a 43-to-38 K/BB in 64 1/3 innings.
The 27-year-old lefty is still inducing plenty of ground balls, but his walks and homers have risen while his strikeouts have plunged. He is paying dearly for mistakes in the middle and upper parts of the strike zone. And more than half of his sinkers are being taken for balls.
Romero has given no indication that an injury is behind his struggles, but as Jason Collette said in the afore-linked tweet, the Blue Jays might have to place him on the disabled list “for his own sanity.” As Dirk Hayhurst put it, he is “a foreigner in his own mind.”
A former major-league pitcher and veteran coach, manager John Farrell should know as well as anyone the cure for Romero’s malaise. He echoed the concerns about Romero’s mindset, saying “It goes back to, once again, going back to trust his abilities, trust his stuff, because there is plenty of stuff there,” and noting that he is expected to make his next start. If the team does give Romero one more chance, it would likely come on Monday night at Safeco Field—as friendly a matchup as he could ask for.
Now back in the American League East cellar, and with their odds of surging up the wild-card standings worse than 1-in-20, the Blue Jays ought to put Romero’s future ahead of their rapidly dwindling 2012 hopes. They have nearly $23 million invested in the southpaw from 2013-2015, and whether his ailment is mental or physical, it needs to be righted for them to contend next year.
What to Watch for on Thursday