The Blue Jays' demotion of Ricky Romero to Dunedin carries echoes of Roy Halladay's banishment to A-ball in 2001, when the late pitching coach Mel Queen helped rebuild him into the best hurler in Toronto history.
On Tuesday, the Blue Jays demoted Ricky Romero all the way down to Class-A Dunedin. The Jays have been working with Romero to change his mechanics, and it's taking longer than the team would like for the changes to produce results.
Romero made a start in spring training Tuesday, and while it was much better than his last few times on the mound, it still wasn't good. In 4 1/3 innings, he gave up three walks, six hits and two earned runs.
If you've followed the Jays for a few years, you'll remember that the Jays did the same thing with Roy Halladay after the 2000 season, when he had an ERA over 10. He was sent to A-ball and pitching coach Mel Queen totally revamped his delivery. Halladay came back to be the best starting pitcher the Blue Jays have ever had (though Dave Stieb might argue).
The Jays can only hope for similar results this time around. Queen, unfortunately, passed away two years ago. The good news is that Dane Johnson, the Blue Jays' minor league pitching coordinator, has had success fixing pitchers' mechanics before.
Romero made the AL All-Star team just two years ago, but last year he had trouble hitting the strike zone. After walking 3.2 batters per 9 innings in 2011, that number jumped to an unacceptable 5.2 per 9 innings last season. This spring has been even worse -- he's walked 7.3 batters per 9.
The Jays feel Romero has been throwing across his body. They've been trying to get him to start his delivery from the centre of the rubber, so that he can have his whole motion move in a straight line towards the plate.
The Jays say they are demoting him all the way down to Dunedin so he can work on the new delivery in good weather. If he was in Buffalo, home of the Jays' triple-A affiliate, cold and rain at the start of the season could cause him to miss time and could slow the work on the new delivery.
There is no timetable for Romero's return to the majors. He will stay in the minors until the Jays feel he's back to the pitcher he was a couple of years back. Any change in delivery takes a while to feel natural.
Taking Romero's place in the rotation is J.A. Happ. The plan was for Happ to start the season at Triple-A Buffalo, and be ready in case of an injury. Happ has had a great spring -- he has a 1.89 ERA, with just three walks and 14 strikeouts in 19 innings (not that you should judge a player on a handful of innings, especially in spring training).
J.A. wasn't Happ-y (sorry, couldn't resist) with the plan to send him to Buffalo, so he'll be pleased to be staying with Toronto. He's been a pretty good pitcher in the majors for the few seasons, posting a slightly better than league average ERA. With the Jays' offence, a starter who can post a league average ERA can put up a pretty good win-loss record.