Ricky Romero showed a steady progression in his first three seasons, as his ERA went from 4.30 to 3.73 to 2.92 with similar improvements in walk rate and strikeout-to-walk ratio.
He emerged as a top-of-the-rotation starter for the Blue Jays last season, making his first All-Star team at age 26 and throwing 225 innings with a 2.92 ERA. And now he can’t get anyone out.
Romero failed to make it out of the second inning last night against the A’s, walking six batters and coughing up eight runs as his ERA ballooned to 5.75. It was the fourth time in his last six starts that Romero has allowed six-plus runs and in his last dozen starts he’s allowed 59 runs in 64 innings with nearly as many walks (38) as strikeouts (43).
His strikeouts are down and his walks are up, although Romero’s average fastball velocity of 91.1 miles per hour is pretty close to his career mark of 91.5 mph. Despite that similar velocity batters have teed off on his fastball, with Fan Graphs showing the pitch being worth 12.5 runs below average compared to 15.5 runs above average during the previous two seasons. And that negative mark for this year doesn’t even include last night’s clobbering.
I’m not smart enough to explain why, but Romero’s fastball is getting knocked around this year after previously being an excellent pitch and suddenly the young left-hander the Blue Jays thought would be atop their rotation for years to come thanks to a $30 million contract extension is a complete mess.
Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Pirates GM Neal Huntington is looking for outside outfield help in the wake of Starling Marte‘s 80-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs. With Marte out of the picture, the club moved Andrew McCutchen back to center field and have played Adam Frazier, John Jaso, and Jose Osuna in right field. But, as Brink points out, Osuna and Jaso — neither an outfielder by trade — misplayed balls over the weekend against the Yankees.
Among available free agents, the pickings are slim. There’s Coco Crisp, Jeff Francoeur, Cole Gillespie, Kelly Johnson, and Nolan Reimold (who is currently in independent baseball). The Pirates may have to find themselves a trade partner. They could also try to talk Angel Pagan back into action, as the veteran outfielder recently said he’s taking the year off. The Pirates could also look at Leonys Martin, who was recently designated for assignment by the Mariners.
On Friday, tension between the Orioles and Red Sox rose when Manny Machado spiked Dustin Pedroia sliding into second base. Although the umpires found no fault with Machado’s slide, third base coach Brian Butterfield was later ejected, still feeling like Machado wronged the Red Sox. Pedroia exited the game and was not in the lineup on Saturday or Sunday. He’ll undergo an MRI for his left knee and ankle in Boston on Monday.
For what it’s worth, Pedroia didn’t seem to feel any bitterness towards Machado for his slide. As MLB.com’s Jeff Seidel reported, Pedroia said, “I don’t even know what the rule is. I’ve turned the best double play in the Major Leagues for 11 years. I don’t need a … rule. The rule’s irrelevant. The rule’s for people with bad footwork.”
Tempers flared between the Red Sox and Orioles again on Sunday. In the bottom of the eighth inning with a runner on first base and one out with the Red Sox leading 6-0, reliever Matt Barnes threw a first-pitch fastball up-and-in to Machado. The ball actually hit Machado’s bat, so it counted as a foul ball. Home plate umpire Andy Fletcher ejected Barnes and the Red Sox brought in Joe Kelly. Machado doubled on the first pitch Kelly threw to put the Orioles on the board, but the Orioles ultimately lost 6-2.
MASN’s broadcast later showed Pedroia talking to Machado, seemingly clarifying that Barnes acted of his own volition without encouragement from Pedroia. “You know that,” Pedroia appeared to say. “It wasn’t me. It’s them.”
Update: Pedroia even apologized to Machado and the Orioles, per Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal.
Commissioner Rob Manfred will likely look into Sunday’s incident. He could fine and/or suspend Barnes.
The Orioles and Red Sox meet again in Boston for a four-game series May 1-4. It will be interesting to see if the tension still remains then.