Romero keeps rolling

There’s a lot of things that the Blue Jays can get excited about when it comes to Ricky Romero’s performance on the mound this year. Romero began the season as the club’s No. 1 starter almost by default — following the offseason trade of Shaun Marcum to the Brewers. Now, with just under a month left in the regular season, he has established himself not only as Toronto’s best pitcher but as a bonafide ace in the tough American League East.

Romero is currently riding a career high six-game winning streak. Toronto has won each of his past eight starts and Romero has posted a sparking 2.11 ERA during that span. He also has thrown eight consecutive quality starts and has failed to record that type of outing in just six of his 27 games this year.

Those are all impressive numbers but what might be even more encouraging for the club has been his performance in the past two games. Romero has walked eight batters in his last 12 innings and each of his past two times on the mound has gotten off to a rough start. He began the game against Kansas City by hitting Alex Gordon with the first pitch he threw. Romero started Monday’s start against Tampa Bay in somewhat similar fashion by walking Desmond Jennings on four pitches.

It’s not that those situations are remotely positive — but how Romero has dealt with each of them has been. In previous seasons, those two outings might have gotten away from the native of California. He might have become a little too frustrated on the mound and the next thing you know the Blue Jays would find themselves in an early hole. That hasn’t happened this time around, though, both games Romero found a way to get through six innings having surrendered three runs or less.

I think when Romero looks back on his season these two starts might be ones he remembers even a little bit more than his four complete games when it seemed like nothing could go wrong.  The one thing that’s likely left on his to-do list this season is handling the Boston Red Sox — a club in which he has a 2-6 career record against and an unimpressive 8.08 ERA. He’ll get that opportunity when Toronto returns home next week.

Toronto now heads out for a six-game road trip after finishing its homestand 2-5. It starts in Baltimore on Tuesday night — but I won’t be there. I have a few days off and will join the team in New York on Friday. The main site will still have full coverage of all the news so make sure to check back frequently for anything going on with the team. You can also find today’s notebook here with items on John Farrell’s bout of pneumonia, injury updates on Jon Rauch and Carlos Villanueuva, and Brian Tallet being activated from the 15-day disabled list.

Below you’ll find some of Romero’s post-game comments that didn’t make it into today’s game story. You’ll also find some leftovers from J.P. Arencibia and acting manager Don Wakamatsu. Also, don’t forget, you can follow me on Twitter @gregorMLB.

Ricky Romero:

On starting the game with a walk and two-run homer…

“You gotta hang in there. You know you’re going to face adversity in game and obviously I haven’t really been myself the past two outings. I guess everyone gets used to be going deep into games, and I expect that out of myself too, walks killed me today. I started off with the leadoff walk and to me that’s unacceptable.

“Damon just hit two pitches that were over the plate and took full advantage of it. But the way I see it, it could have been a lot worse. I grinded again through six innings and gave the team a chance to win.”

On grinding through six innings…

“That’s all that matters to me. If I give the team a chance to win and we come out on top, which we did the past two outings. No one ever said this is going to be easy. It’s easy to get going when stuff is going your way and you’re feeling great. Right now, I feel great, I think I’m just fighting myself too much and not letting the game come to me.

“When everything’s working it’s easy to get through a game and go eight-nine innings. It’s these outings that make you mentally strong and you’re like, you know what, I grinded and I did everything I could and I made it through six.”

On control problems the biggest issue lately….

“It’s pretty obvious that’s what it is. I’m just throwing too many balls, getting deep in counts, and fighting myself to come all the way back … If these are my worst outings then I’ll take them anytime. It’s all about grinding and giving your team a chance to win.”

On overall health…

“I came in and I told Papi (Blue Jays hitting coach Bruce Walton), man I felt great. These past two games I felt better than I did earlier in the month. This game works in mysterious ways sometimes. But I feel great, I’d be worried if my velocities were down and stuff like that. But I look up there sometimes and my velocity is there …  it’s just a matter of throwing strikes and getting back on my side and getting deep into these games.

J.P. Arencibia:

On what he has seen from Romero lately…

“That he’s been able to give us a chance. His last couple of starts he has been getting kind of amped up and a little upset pretty quick. It’s been a big thing for him to just calm down mentally, just go out there and make pitches because when you get upset it’s when things stay in the middle of the plate and you try to do too much.

On his performance at the plate…

“I’ve been swinging it well lately. everything has been going good… I’ve been driving in runs when I’ve needed to and that’s a big thing for me is driving in those runs and that’s the way it’s been going lately. Sometimes you hit the ball right at the guy and today I got a couple to fall in there and I’ve felt good at the plate.”

Don Wakamatsu:

On Romero…

“I didn’t think he had his best stuff, but the thing that’s special about Ricky,  is his competitiveness. Couple big double plays to get him out of some jams, he just never gave in all night, got us through the sixth to turn it over to the bullpen.”

A ‘here we go again’ feeling after the Damon HR?

“Yeah, if it wasn’t for Ricky. We knew that the numbers, obviously he hit a second one against Ricky, the numbers, the matchups with him haven’t been good but (Romero)  just never gives in and that’s what’s special, that’s what he has done all year, is rally when we really needed him.”

“Offensively we put ourselves in a position, because of what the pitcher did, to be aggressive on the bases. This is a good offensive club and I think we played a bit more as a club tonight.”

On Jesse Litsch topping 90 mph just once and whether fatigue is a factor…

“That’s hard to say. It might be the role, it might be the time of year, it’s hard to say. What I liked about it, is that he get himself into trouble and then got himself out of trouble. I know he was frustrated when he came in after that inning, we went over and said, it doesn’t matter you got out of it. Let’s build on that.”

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