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Ricky Romero's Reclamation Project


Bisons’ hurler trying to get back to the big leagues

One of the more intriguing stories coming out of the 2013 Buffalo Bisons is that of pitcher Rickey Romero, the Toronto Blue Jays pitching star who is working his way back to a major league roster spot. And, judging from the results so far this season, not having an easy time of it.

Romero was a college standout at Cal State Fullerton, helping to propel his team to a national title in the 2004 College World Series. The Toronto Blue Jays picked him in the first round of the following year’s amateur entry draft, and he worked his way through Toronto’s minor league chain, where he was saddled with injuries and control problems.

Nonetheless, he earned a roster spot with Toronto to begin the 2009 season, and made his way up the chain to become the number two starter behind ace Roy Halladay. By 2012 he had earned the privilege of being the team’s Opening Day starter. He struggled mightily the rest of the 2012 season.

Romero was penciled in as the number five starter in Toronto to start the 2013 season. After a poor spring training, the team kept him in Dunedin with their A-level team to get his mechanics straight and his act together. With the pitching problems at the big league level, the team hurried Romero up to Toronto. Both his Jays starts were disasters. In fact, in his second start he only recorded one out while allowing four hits, two walks, and three runs before being pulled.

So now Romero is in Buffalo. This past Saturday, the Blue Jays outrighted him to Buffalo, meaning he is no longer on the team’s 40-man roster. So now it’s up to Marty Brown and his staff to get Romero back to the level he should be at.

So what’s it been like for Romero since landing with the Bisons? This past week on the team’s road swing, he produced his worst start of the season, lasting only two thirds of an inning against Durham, where he surrendered five hits and eight runs. Then this past Saturday he pitched his best game, lasting six innings and retiring nine of the last 10 batters he faced down in Norfolk.

Which brings us to his only home start at Coca Cola Field against Charlotte. Romero played five strong innings, his team was cruising with a 7-1 lead, and it looked like Romero would notch his first victory in a Buffalo uniform.

Then manager Brown made the decision to put Romero back out there for the sixth inning.

Ball four. Ball eight. Ball 12. In fact, of the 17 pitches Romero threw that inning, only one was for a strike, and he finally left the field nursing a still healthy 7-2 advantage. Charlotte managed to tie the game before the Bisons pulled off the 8-7 win in the 10th inning. For Romero, a no-decision.

Brown deflected all criticism of his decision to keep his struggling pitcher in the game, and instead dwelled on the positive aspects of the performance. “This is the kind of game that builds character. You see the players grind it out and get the run that was needed,” said Brown. “All in all, we played as a team, and that says a lot about us.

“You can’t look at that last inning and say the outing was a failure. It really wasn’t and that’s what I told Ricky. I really liked what I saw, I think he’s on the right track. I think it’s more of a mental thing than a physical thing and he’s got to work through it.”

Brown said that the game was a big step for Romero. “That’s what he needs. He needs to see the adversity and battle through it, and today was a step forward. Today was not a negative. Take the positives and let’s build through this.”

Romero pretty much parroted his manager’s comments. “Just try and focus on the positives and not the negatives so much.”

With Romero no longer on the big league roster, his future with Toronto is now a huge question mark. As for the Bisons, they have slipped in the standings of late, and placing 13th of 14 teams in team pitching in the International League is a big reason.

Around the Bases…

• Jim Negrych now longer leads the International League in batting, now in third place at .351 (stats as of last weekend).

• Over at, Minor League Baseball’s web site, there is a “food fight,” where fans can vote online for their favorite food item in four different categories: Gut Busters, Hogs ’n’ Dogs, Local Legends, and the last one, Scrumptious Sandwiches. That final category is where the Bisons’ famed bologna and onions sandwich is competing for food supremacy.

• In the Gut Busters category, we like the Fifth Third Burger at the West Michigan Whitecaps. Eight-inch bun, a half cup of chili, five 1/3-pound burger patties, five slices of cheese, crushed corn chips, nacho cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, and salsa. For those of you counting calories, wash that all down with a Diet Coke.

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