The Blue Jays hoped that by reducing the adrenalin generated by facing Major League batters in a Grapefruit League game, struggling left-hander Ricky Romero would be better able to harness his pitches.
But in a minor league game against Pittsburgh farmhands on Thursday, Romero had trouble finding the plate even during the pre-inning warmup sessions and afterward, GM Alex Anthopolous hinted for the first time that the club may consider options other than bringing Romero north when camp breaks in a week.
Anthopolous, manager John Gibbons, pitching coach Pete Walker and himself will "evaluate" the situation, he said.
Options would include keeping Romero at extended spring training or sending him to Triple-A Buffalo. At extended spring training he could possibly be placed on the disabled list, following off-season medical procedures on his knees and throwing elbow.
"You see flashes, you see glimpses, and it's just a matter of him putting it all together," Anthopolous said.
Time is running out.
Romero moved his foot along the pitching rubber, an experiment to address a mechanical fault that Walker had detected. Romero's right heel was at the third-base end of the rubber.
Still, he fell behind hitters in the count repeatedly, just as in his last spring training start in Lakeland against the Tigers, and gave up a wind-aided home run.
The Jays have supported Romero throughout the spring, in the wake of a season in which he surrendered an AL-high 105 walks. They're approaching the point, however, of needing to assess whether bringing Romero north is the right thing to do for the player or the club.
In an interview conducted last weekend, Anthopolous said: "He's been very good for a long time. Last year, the numbers and the performance speak for themselves. His stuff is still there; command is the issue. He's our guy and we're going to support him but does that mean it's forever? Of course not. Things can change over the course of a season."
The AL East is expected to be highly competitive. How long would the leash be for Romero, if he does make the Opening Day roster? Can they afford to give games away for the sake of support?
"I don t know - that's a fair question to ask," Anthopolous said. "We want to win games. It's one of those things - you stick with him and you hope it's going to come and it's going to click."