Marty Brown learned that Ricky Romero was headed to the Buffalo Bisons the same way everyone else did – via official announcement from the Toronto Blue Jays.
He doesn’t know the plan, other than Romero is expected to join the club in Louisville as the Herd embarks on an eight-game road trip.
But he does know that his pitching staff is in flux and that performances, particularly from the starters, have been inconsistent.
The Bisons received another rough outing on the mound Thursday afternoon in a 7-3 loss to the Norfolk Tides at Coca-Cola Field.
Miguel Batista (1-1) lasted just 3∏ innings, giving up six runs on seven hits, including a pair of solo home runs, along with four walks and three strikeouts.
The four-run third inning and the two-run fourth he gave up put the Bisons behind, 6-0, and the Herd couldn’t muster enough offensive oomph to rally.
“The second time through the order he elevated some balls and [Norfolk] is not a team that you can get away with those types of mistakes,” Brown said. “He kind of regrouped but he was up in the zone all day. Everybody has good days and bad days. Miguel has gone through some rough innings and come back so it wasn’t a huge concern.”
But the bullpen was used heavily during the Bisons’ just-completed homestand and is a bit thin.
“Some of the guys are a little bit tired and beat up after this series,” Brown said. “Hopefully we’ll get someone in here helping in the bullpen.”
The Herd lost two pitchers – starter Ramon Ortiz and reliever Mickey Storey – who had their contracts selected by Toronto.
In return, the Blue Jays designated Edgar Gonzalez for assignment and optioned Romero to the Herd.
Romero was an All-Star in 2011, when he had an earned run average of 2.92 and won 15 games for the Jays. He started 2012 8-1 but had a 13-game losing streak and had his ERA jump to 5.77 with 105 walks – among the worst in the major leagues.
He went into spring training as the Blue Jays’ fifth starter but Romero continued to have delivery problems and J.A. Happ excelled, earning Happ a spot in Toronto to start the season and leaving Romero in extended spring training.
He stayed with the Class-A Dunedin club, working with Dane Johnson, Toronto’s minor-league pitching instructor. He pitched just one game with Dunedin before getting the call to join Toronto.
In his first start on May 3 against Seattle, he went four innings, giving up three runs on three hits with three walks and four strikeouts.
Wednesday night in Florida against Tampa Bay, he lasted just one-third of an inning, giving up three runs on four hits with two walks. He threw 29 pitches in that performance.
In his 4∑ innings over two outings, his ERA is 12.46.
“He’s kind of struggling a little, well a lot,” said Bisons pitching coach Bob Stanley, who played 13 years with the Boston Red Sox. “I talked to him in spring training a lot in big league camp. A lot of times it’s mental and confidence. He needs to get his confidence back because he does have good stuff.
“Last year he had a tough year. A lot of times the pitchers, they battle to try and get better and sometimes they don’t believe in themselves. I’ve been there and done that. It’s just something that we try to talk it through and get him back on track because the ball club really needs him and he needs it for himself, too. It’s hard going out there and you know if you’re not good you’re going to get booed. I did that a lot in Boston. So I know his feelings.”
Brown said that after he talks with Romero they will decide when he’s ready to enter the rotation.
In Wednesday’s game, after falling behind 6-0, the Herd got on the board in the fourth, taking advantage of two walks that loaded the bases with one out. Eugenio Velez singled to drive in two runs to cut the lead to 6-2.
In the fifth, Anthony Gose led off with a walk, then Jim Negrych doubled, setting up a one-out RBI single by Luis Jimenez.
The announced paid attendance was 4,802. … The Bisons begin an eight-game road trip tonight with the first of four games in Louisville (6:35 p.m., Radio 1520 AM). Dave Bush (3-2, 3.46) is scheduled to start for Buffalo against Daniel Corcino (1-5, 7.56). The Herd will play four in Indianapolis, then return home May 18, for a 7 p.m. game against Charlotte.