SCOTTSDALE — Ricky Romero had been facing hitters before the Blue Jays released him last April, so it came as a surprise when his new team, the Giants, took exception to a simple act at their minor league facility.
“They saw me playing catch for the first time and said, ‘You’re not ready for mound work,’” Romero said Saturday. “I was like, ‘But I was just throwing live BP.’”
The Giants insisted that Romero take a step back, start from square one, and get healthy. They told him they didn’t want him for the 2015 season, but rather for 2016. Romero had gone under the knife twice within eight weeks in 2014, repairing torn quad tendons in each leg. His doctor said he had never really seen anything like the double-injury, which Romero attributes to years spent running on pavement and bleachers.
The 31-year-old former All-Star has now nearly come full circle, and on Saturday he took a big step back toward finding his old self, pitching 1 2/3 innings as the starter at Scottsdale Stadium. Romero, a big smile on his face, said this was the biggest crowd he had pitched in front of in three years.
“I’m happy to be here,” he said. “To be able to get another shot with a team like this is humbling.”
[RELATED: Cueto scratched from spring training game]
Romero comes with more promise than your average 31-year-old non-roster invitee. He was an All-Star in 2011 and finished 10th in the Cy Young Award balloting after going 15-11 with a 2.92 ERA in 225 innings for the Blue Jays. His numbers cratered the next year and a relief appearance in the final weeks of the 2013 season still stands as his last in the big leagues.
The injuries derailed Romero’s career, and the Blue Jays released him a decade after making him the sixth overall pick in the draft and five years after giving him a $30 million deal. Having helped Romero get healthy, the Giants are eager to get a look at him this spring, knowing that you can never have enough starting pitching help in Triple-A.
“He knows how to pitch, he gives us depth,” manager Bruce Bochy said early in camp. “Anytime you have a guy with his success and experience, that’s intriguing. The fact that he’s left-handed made us bring him back to see what he has.”
The Giants have just one lefty — albeit it an All-World one — in their rotation and their best starting prospects are right-handed. When Johnny Cueto’s debut was pushed back this week, the Giants gave Romero his shot. He said he felt some jitters and nerves in the first inning, but he got through his day without giving up a run. Romero allowed one hit, walked two and struck out two. He hopes this is just the beginning of his journey with the Giants.
“They did the job of signing me back,” Romero said. “Now my job is helping them in whatever way I can help them.”