04/09/09 5:42 PM ET
Romero leads Jays to series win
Southpaw shakes off pregame jitters to notch victory
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
Romero was happy his meeting with the Tigers on Thursday had a scheduled start time of 12:37 p.m. ET -- less time for him to get worked up over the moment at hand. The only problem was that the early game made it a little harder for Romero relax and get a good night of rest.
"I kept just waking up all night," Romero said with a smile. "I was checking my clock, making sure I wasn't late this morning."
Romero made it to Rogers Centre on time -- getting to his locker a little more than three hours before taking the mound -- and if he was nervous, the left-hander certainly hid it well. In the first outing of his career, Romero tamed Detroit's talented lineup, piecing together six solid innings to earn the win in a 6-2 victory for Toronto.
That capped off a successful series for the Blue Jays (3-1), whose younger players carried much of the load in the four games against the Tigers. In the finale of the season-opening set, Romero's effort was backed by three home runs -- blasts that helped spoil the Major League debut for Detroit starter Rick Porcello.
The fact that Romero and Porcello were each making their debuts made the contest unique. It marked the first time since the First-Year Player Draft began in 1965 that a pair of first-round selections debuted against each other. Since 1901, only 18 games have included the first big league appearances for both starting pitchers.
It was a nice touch to what was already a special afternoon for Romero.
"I know we made some history," Romero said. "But, just coming into the game, I was worried about me and the team, and I just wanted to put them in a good situation to win this ballgame."
Romero -- the sixth overall selection in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft -- did exactly that against Detroit (1-3).
Two games after David Purcey -- another young lefty for the Blue Jays -- logged seven strong innings against the Tigers, Romero fashioned six effective frames. Romero was charged with two runs on seven hits, and he finished with five strikeouts and two walks.
As a souvenier, Romero was presented with the baseball used for his first career strikeout -- a five-pitch confrontation with Tigers slugger Magglio Ordonez that ended the first inning. Romero also received the game's scorecard, along with the traditional postgame shaving-cream pie to the face.
Adding to the day was the fact that Romero's entire family -- his parents, two sisters and brother -- were in the stands after a long flight from their home in Los Angeles.
"It's a day that I'm never going to forget," Romero said.
Romero's performance did come with a few rough spots, though.
The Tigers broke through for two runs with two outs against the rookie in the third inning. After Romero set down the first two batters in the frame, Detroit center fielder Curtis Granderson sent the first pitch he received over the wall in left-center for a solo home run. Romero then allowed a triple to Marcus Thames, who scored on a base hit from Ordonez to put Toronto behind early, 2-0.
Romero followed by giving up a single to Miguel Cabrera, and the pitcher struck Carlos Guillen with a pitch to load the bases. Detroit's Brandon Inge stepped into the batter's box and promptly ripped a pitch toward left field. Blue Jays third baseman Jose Bautista leaped to his left and snared the ball out of the air with a diving grab, ending the inning.
"I think that was the biggest turning point in the game right there," Romero said. "They were hoping for a big inning right there, with the bases loaded, and Jose made a great diving play and helped me out. The defense played great. That's what you're going to need to win ballgames."
After that inning, Blue Jays catcher Michael Barrett discussed altering the day's game plan with Romero, and the lefty blanked the Tigers over his final three innings. Romero's willingness and ability to change his approach in the middle of the game impressed the catcher.
"For a young pitcher to be able to stop the way he's pitching and go to another way is a credit to him," Barrett said. "That made the difference in today's game."
Romero said that nerves were never an issue.
"I was really calm actually," he said. "I told Purcey, when I came out of the game, I was like, 'Did I look nervous?' He said, 'No, man. You looked really calm.' I think I was more nervous warming up coming into the game than I was in the actual game. Once I threw that first pitch, I was like, 'All right, it's just baseball.'"
As strong as Romero looked and felt on the mound, it was the Blue Jays' bats that helped him to his first career victory.
Porcello (0-1) -- the 27th overall pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft -- held Toronto's hitters in check through three innings before Barrett contributed a run-scoring single in the fourth. An inning later, Jays second baseman Aaron Hill pulled a 1-1 offering from Porcello to left field for a solo homer that knotted the score, 2-2.
Adam Lind opened the sixth inning with a solo homer of his own off Porcello to push Toronto ahead by one run. Before the inning was over, rookie left fielder Travis Snider added an RBI double and shortstop Marco Scutaro chipped in a two-run homer for the Jays to grab a 6-2 advantage.
"Everyone, one through nine, stepped up in big situations," Snider said. "I think we've had a different guy deliver every night, and that's really helped pick us up through these three wins. Hopefully we can continue to do that."
The Blue Jays are hoping for more outings like the one they received from Romero as well. One thing that impressed Toronto manager Cito Gaston was the fact that Romero never looked nervous on the mound.
"That's what I see in this kid," Gaston said. "He shows confidence and he keeps his composure. He doesn't rattle too easy. Maybe he's going fast inside, but you can't tell on the outside in the job that he does. That's just a sign of, hopefully, a great pitcher."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.