This development shouldn't shock anybody now, but it's been a strange turn of events:
In a move that nobody could have predicted a year ago, the Blue Jays optioned left-hander Ricky Romero to Class A Dunedin on Tuesday evening.
Romero goes from being the club's Opening Day starter in 2012 to not cracking its 25-man roster the following spring. It's a shocking twist in an otherwise uneventful Spring Training for a team that entered camp with its roster basically set in stone.
"We saw a lot of good things and he was fine, but it's not the Ricky we know he can be," general manager Alex Anthopoulos said. "We can try to just keep going, and when you're at the big league level, it's hard to continue working on things, or take a little more time, get him back to where he can be.
Let's review some recent history. Ricky Romero went from a 2.92 ERA in 2011 to a 5.77 ERA in 2012; he went from 6 Wins Above Replacement in '11 to negative-2 Wins+ in '12. I'm absolutely sure that's not a record, but I'm also fairly sure that not many pitchers in recent memory have gone from so good to so bad in the space of one year.
Now, like most extremes there was some luck involved. In 2011, Romero gave up a .242 batting average on balls in play, which of course wasn't sustainable. His strikeouts and walks and home runs that season suggested a pitcher with an ERA around 4 rather than 3. And his strikeouts and walks and home runs in 2012 suggested a pitcher with an ERA around 5 rather than 6.
So, roughly speaking -- very roughly speaking -- Romero's performance from season went not from tremendous to nightmarish, but rather from good to lousy. And going from good to lousy is not terribly uncommon. Which doesn't excuse Romero's performance lately. It started going to hell last May, when he started walking the ballpark. Anthopolous says Romero was fine this spring, but Romero walked more batters than he struck out, and it's hard to walk batters in March; nobody wants to walk in March (except Joey Votto, but he doesn't count).
It's pretty uncommon for a pitcher to open one season as a club's No. 1 starter, and the next in the Florida State League. I don't remember that happening before. But Romero's not been diagnosed with an injury; if his problems really are purely mechanical, it might not take much to turn him from an around-5 pitcher to an around-4 pitcher. And while the 2011 Ricky Romero was probably a mirage, there's plenty of room in the majors for around-4 pitchers. I'm not saying Romero's a lock to rediscover his lost mechanics, but if he's healthy I'll bet we haven't seen the last of him.
For much more about Romero and the Blue Jays, please visit SB Nation's Bluebird Banter.