It all started with playing catch.
Ricky Romero said he has rediscovered the attention to detail when playing catch with Buffalo Bisons pitching coach Randy St. Claire.
It’s about the details, about getting back to the delivery he had before things went south with the Toronto Blue Jays, before he spent the better part of a season trying to reinvent himself.
Thursday afternoon, he was the brightest spot for the Buffalo Bisons as they were swept in a doubleheader by the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders at Coca-Cola Field.
In Game One, Romero took a no-decision as the scheduled seven-inning game went nine innings with the RailRiders winning, 2-1. In Game Two, Scranton jumped all over Buffalo starter Kyle Drabek, pounding out a 7-2 win to earn the afternoon sweep in front of 5,463.
Romero was solid in his start. He gave up one run on two hits through six innings, though he did issue four walks, one of which came around to score in the third inning.
“I felt great,” Romero said. “I had really, really good command of my change-up, which has always been one of my key pitches when I’ve been going good. I think at times I was a little off with my fastball. I had four walks and when you throw four balls in a row and you don’t make the adjustment quick, it’s frustrating. But I got back on the horse and it’s just repeating my delivery.
“I think that’s the biggest thing. That’s the key. Repetition right now for me. The more I repeat my delivery and feel like my old self, I think the better I’m going to be. At times I repeated my delivery well and made some good pitches.”
Romero was an American League All-Star in 2011 and led the Toronto Blue Jays with 15 wins and 25 quality starts. Then he had a 13-game losing streak to close out 2012. He spent most of last season with the Bisons, making two starts at the beginning and two relief appearances at the end of the season for the Blue Jays.
He spent time last year mucking with his mechanics until he finally decided to stop tweaking and get back to his original delivery.
While outings like Thursday’s help bolster his confidence, Romero’s biggest mental jump has been learning to take the bumps that come with baseball. After all, he isn’t going to return to being a big league All-Star in one start.
“I’ve fallen into that trap before,” Romero said. “I worked so hard and you want results right away as anyone would. But I’ve just been patient. If I have a little bump next outing or something, it’s not redoing my whole delivery again. It’s just part of the game and it’s getting back to work.”
Part of the game, too, is dealing with a lack of run support.
The Bisons didn’t get a hit in the first game until the fifth inning and didn’t score until Chris Getz had an RBI single in the bottom of the seventh to send it to extra innings.
“Three runs in two games, that’s not going to win you too many ball games unless you get some really good pitching,” manager Gary Allenson said. “I’ll tell you, Romero pitched real well. He pitched well enough to win. … He walks a few guys, but he makes some good pitches and got ahead more this time than the last time. When he gets ahead and mixes that change-up in there, he’s tough to figure out.”
Scranton’s pitching staff was tough for the Herd to figure out. The team managed just eight hits over two games and went a combined 2 for 16 with runners in scoring position.
“They threw good pitches, and sometimes you just have those days,” said Bisons first baseman Jared Goedert, who had a solo home run in the second game. “Obviously it didn’t affect their team, but I know at times the second game it was kind of tough to see with the shadows.
“But that’s part of it, and clearly it didn’t bother their team at all. Clearly it was just one of those days.”
It was one of those days where the RailRiders belted four home runs in the second game – three off Drabek, who gave up five runs on 10 hits in four innings of work.
“He was getting hit hard but that’s more of a location-type thing and being able to throw a breaking ball or a change-up for a strike when you’re behind in the count,” Allenson said. “He’ll be better next time out.”
As expected, the Blue Jays recalled outfielder Anthony Gose to play in the second game of their doubleheader with the Twins in Minnesota.
The Herd also added pitcher Austin Bibens-Dirkx, who was promoted from Double-A New Hampshire. The 28-year-old took the loss in the first game, giving up one run on one hit while pitching the ninth inning.
The Bisons begin an eight-game road trip tonight, playing at Pawtucket at 6:15 p.m. with Liam Hendricks (2-0, 0.00 ERA) scheduled for the start. The Herd will play a doubleheader with the PawSox on Saturday, with a scheduled off day Sunday before closing out the series Monday night.