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No More Ricky Romero to Kick Around

Romero

Bisons hurler will miss rest of the season

Who is the highest paid athlete plying his trade around these parts of late? No it’s not a member of the Buffalo Bills or the Buffalo Sabres.

The answer to this question is Toronto Blue Jays and Buffalo Bisons starting pitcher Ricky Romero, who is slated to make $7.5-million this season. No that is not a typo.

Drafted by the Blue Jays back in 2005, Romero made the steady climb through their minor league system, finally cracking the major league lineup in 2009. He was fabulous, posting double digit wins for three years straight as part of the starting rotation, and even serving as the Toronto ace. He was rewarded with a huge contract, and was counted on to be a big part of the high expectation Blue Jays team these past two seasons.

It hasn’t happened, and this year Romero was shipped down to Buffalo right during spring training to try to get his groove back. It has been Manager Gary Allenson’s biggest reclamation project, given the size of the contract and the moneys invested.

The result? Nine starts with the Herd, a 0-3 record, and a 5.50 ERA over 37 2/3 innings pitched.

Last week, Ricky Romero’s season ended when he was put on the disabled list, where he will have knee surgery to deal with an inflammation of his quadriceps. He will miss six months of action and the news gets worse—he may have to have surgery on his other knee as well, and will be evaluated in a few weeks to determine the best course of action.

Of all the bizarre performances by Romero here in Buffalo this season, the strangest one had to be back on May 16 at Coca Cola Field vs the Gwinnett Braves.

Romero was pulled from the game after pitching just 2 2/3 innings. He would eventually be tagged for the loss. Yet he was pitching a no hitter.

At first glance, what was Allenson thinking? Read further, and you will see that in that less than three innings of work, Romero walked nine batters. It was a dubious modern era record for the Buffalo Bisons. Only 25 of the 75 pitches that Romero threw were called strikes. Following that outing, a disconsolate Romero remarked to the media, “I’d rather come out after 2 2/3 knowing I gave up nine hits and made them earn it than come out of the game and reflect what happened. I was like, ‘Wow, they didn’t even earn those two runs. I gave them to them.’ When I’m in the zone and my stuff is moving, I know my stuff plays and it gives hitters trouble.”

Up in Toronto, there is a gamut of opinions among the media and the fans regarding what to do with Romero. There is a growing call that the Jays should just cut him loose. Expecting no takers, they would be on the hook for his contract through 2015. A team option that would pay Romero $13-million in the 2016 season would certainly not be exercised.

Then there are others who place the blame squarely on the shoulders of former Blue Jays manager John Farrell. As things started to unravel for Romero back in 2012, Farrell was especially hard on his ace pitcher. Romero was tagged with a high number of one run losses that season, and Farrell was quick to call out Romero while giving his hitters a free pass. Some say that Romero’s inability to find the strike zone has little to do with his talents and mechanics, and all to do with his lack of confidence, and the Buffalo Bisons have not been the tonic for that.

Nonetheless, team officials stress that they have not given up on Romero. Toronto General Manager Alex Anthopoulos was in town last weekend, and supported Romero’s strong sense of work ethic. “We’ve tried a number of things, and it’s not a lack of hard work. His knees have been banged up, but he’d be the first one to tell you that’s not what has caused his difficulties. Hopefully cleaning out the knee will help him. He can come back. There’s just too much talent and ability, He will come back I just don’t know when,” said Anthopoulos. “He’s a 220 inning guy for us and he’s an all star.”

Gary Allenson also said that Romero never used his knee problems as an excuse. “I think it was an issue for him that he said nothing about. He was really good a few years back and if he gets it back then who knows. He messes hitters timing and his change up is great. He was really successful. It will not be from a lack of effort because he’s always been the first guy to show up for work here at the ballpark.”

Around the Bases (Independence Edition)

• Got your tickets yet for July 3 at Coca Cola Field? The Bisons take to the field at 6:05 pm, and that will be followed by the Independence Eve extravaganza with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and the largest fireworks display of the season.

• This is the 20th straight year that this event has taken place at the ballpark, attracting over 400,000 fans.

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