Twins make Ricky Romero pay for hanging sinker
Prospect homers off lefty in Minnesota's pre-season win
Spring training is like a laboratory for pitchers, and Toronto Blue Jays left-hander Ricky Romero spent his time on the mound Tuesday testing out his sinker.
Teammate Brandon Morrow, using the Internet for research, had pointed out that Romero had strayed from his sinker last year — he had thrown it just eight per cent of the time in 2012 against left-handers and 13 per cent against righties, compared to 26 and 21 per cent in 2011.
In all, he used the sinker 11 per cent compared to 22 per cent the previous year.
"Looking at those numbers, they're pretty crazy," said Romero, who has the printout in his locker to prove it.
He's not sure what happened, other than he stopped trusting the two-seamer pitch in what turned out to be a roller-coaster year.
On Tuesday, Romero estimated he threw the sinker 90 to 95 per cent of the time in his first outing of the spring, a 8-4 loss to the Minnesota Twins that dropped Toronto's Grapefruit League record to 2-3.
"[I'm] just trying to get that pitch back and get it under control," said Romero from Dunedin, Fla. "But it definitely felt good to be back out there."
Get the sinker back and Romero believes he will "get back to the guy that I was."
"Getting ground balls out and quick outs. It all came off that sinker … I know if it's down, it's going to be a ground ball more often than not," he added.
He gave up two runs on two hits including a two-run homer by Joe Benson and threw 36 pitches, 17 for strikes.
Romero wasn't concerned with his velocity, the gun showed him in the high 80s Tuesday. He knows he has weeks left to ratchet that up.
Romero had off-season elbow surgery and injections to his knees after a 2012 campaign that saw him suffer a franchise-record 13 consecutive losses after starting the season 8-1.
Twins starter Mike Pelfrey also had a rough year. He made just three starts with the Mets in 2012 due to a swollen right elbow that ended his season in late April. He had Tommy John surgery on May 1.
On Tuesday, both starters exited with two outs in the second.
Justin Morneau of New Westminster, B.C., started at first base for Minnesota (2-2). He singled in the first, doubled home a run in the third and grounded out in the fifth before giving way.
Adam Lind and Andy LaRoche homered for the Jays who went up early and then saw the Twins pull ahead.
Toronto led on Rajai Davis's RBI single after Emilio Bonifacio doubled to open the bottom of the first. Lind then homered over right-centre to bring Davis home and make it 3-0.
Twins chase Romero
Benson, ranked the Twins' second-best prospect by Baseball America, cut into the lead with a two-run homer in the second on a 2-1 Romero pitch. That marked the end of Romero's afternoon.
"I left a sinker that stayed up and the guy hit out," said Romero.
Errors by Bonifacio and Maicer Izturis did not help the Toronto cause in the inning.
Morneau tied it at 3-3 with a right-field double in the third, driving home Joe Mauer who had singled with one out. The Canadian then came home on Trevor Plouffe's single, eluding Henry Blanco's tag at the plate.
Darin Mastroianni's RBI single extended the lead to 5-3 in the fourth. Aaron Hick's RBI single in the sixth drove in Brian Dozier for a 6-3 lead.
Eddie Rosario, a 21-year-old Twins prospect, hit a two-run shot off David Bush in the seventh to make it 8-3. LaRoche answered with a solo shot in the bottom of the inning.
Toronto second baseman Eugenio Velez made a fine fielding play in the eighth, rising high to catch a bullet.
The game took place despite a morning deluge and a tornado watch in nearby Tampa and parts north until mid-afternoon.
Game-temperature was 20 C with lots of seats still available. Attendance was announced at 2,702.
The Jays host Houston on Wednesday with Brad Lincoln set to start against Alex White of the Astros.