04/04/12 12:00 AM ET
Romero wants to lead Blue Jays by example
By Gregor Chisholm / MLB.com
The Toronto left-hander and Opening Day starter takes a more even keel approach to the game. It's a type of leadership style that's somewhat similar to the way former No. 1 starter Roy Halladay handled his tenure with the Blue Jays.
Romero has a more outgoing personality than the at-times reclusive Halladay, but their approach to each outing and each game is the same.
"I'm not a rah-rah guy in here, I just come in and do my work and a lot of guys are taking that into consideration," Romero said. "They're not going to see me jump on anyone. [Halladay] did it the best, he led by example. As much as sometimes you can't get a word out of him, just by watching him you learned a lot."
W: Perez (1-0) L: Asencio (0-1)
Off the field, Romero has a somewhat soft-spoken -- but relaxed -- demeanor. On the field, he's one of the most competitive athletes in the game today, who is hard on himself and his performance. But if there's one aspect of his life that is the same inside and outside the lines, it's the unmistakable confidence and desire to succeed.
The East Los Angeles native isn't easily intimidated and his fierce approach to each batter is what the Blue Jays require from their ace. In recent days, Romero has openly talked about the "arrogance" and "attitude" his team currently possesses.
When taken out of context, those comments can be interpreted the wrong way, but in reality it's the type of mentality needed to win in the American League East. New York and Boston have had it for years and the young Blue Jays squad appears to be developing a similar line of thinking.
"Honestly I'm sick of going home in October and I think those guys are too," Romero said of his teammates. "I think we see the talent around, we see the young guys, the way they carry themselves. We see the [Brett] Lawries, the J.P. [Arencibias], those guys, and we believe.
"When we're out there, we play with that confidence, the way we should play the game and that I'm going to kick your [butt] attitude every time. I think that's a great attitude to have and we feel like nothing is going to get in our way. It's how we handle adversity and that's what's going to determine where this team goes because you're going to hit adversity throughout a season, and it's how we get back up through those moments and I think this team has the right mindset."
Romero can openly talk about an ability to deal with adversity, because he has already dealt with more than his fair share of it. He was selected amidst high expectations with the sixth overall pick in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, but by 2007 his career was already at a crossroads.
That season, Romero went 3-6 with a 4.84 ERA while walking 52 batters over 19 starts with Class A Dunedin and Double-A New Hampshire. One year later, things weren't much better. He went 8-8 with a 4.55 ERA in stints with New Hampshire and Triple-A Syracuse.
Toronto Blue Jays
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Meanwhile, other members of his Draft class were enjoying success at the Major League level. Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki -- selected one pick after Romero -- led the Rockies to a World Series berth in 2007 and Toronto came under fire for its Draft decision.
That prompted then-GM J.P. Ricciardi to tell Sports Illustrated he made a mistake by taking Romero in the Draft. Romero hung the article in his locker at New Hampshire for motivation and shortly thereafter -- following a lot of hard work -- Romero conquered his control problems on the mound and arrived at Spring Training in 2009 looking to make his mark.
Romero remains one of the only players that current GM Alex Anthopoulos can remember actually changing his mind about during Spring Training.
"Romero looked like he was on his way out but he really started to come on at the end," Anthopoulos recalled.
It's a good thing he did, because once Romero actually made it to the Majors he didn't look back. In 2009, he earned Rookie of the Year honors by the Toronto chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America by going 13-9 with a 4.30 ERA.
Romero backed up that strong first season with another successful campaign in 2010. He went 14-9 with a 3.73 ERA while surpassing the 200-inning plateau. The biggest step forward, though, arguably occurred last season when Romero was handed the reins of the starting rotation following the departure of Shaun Marcum.
At just 26 years of age, Romero became the de facto ace of the staff, and proceeded to record career highs in wins (15), strikeouts (178), innings (225) and complete games (four) en route to becoming one of the elite starters in the American League.
"He's evolved in a couple of ways into that spot," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said of the No. 1 starter status. "One, through his own performance and consistency, with the work that he puts in between starts. He leads by example as much as talking to others.
"You can probably say he's on the shorter end of his Major League career, but yet he takes on the responsibility that comes with [being] the leader in the clubhouse or a leader of a pitching staff, and that's the willingness to talk to others, the willingness to go out and set a standard by example, and at times we've seen he's not afraid to speak his mind."
One of those situations occurred in Atlanta last June following a tough 2-0 loss to Braves starter Tim Hudson. It marked the ninth time that season Romero's team didn't come out on the winning end of one of his starts and Toronto scored a grand total of 13 times in those situations.
To make matters worse, Toronto had averaged 2.3 runs per game over its previous six and Romero was simply stating the obvious when he said the Blue Jays needed to get more contributions from players outside of Jose Bautista and Adam Lind.
These comments seemed to take on a life of their own, and to this day it's something Romero doesn't enjoy talking about. Lost in all of that supposed controversy was a message being delivered to the rest of the Blue Jays that excuses were no longer being accepted. It was time to build the type of swagger -- or arrogance -- that caused each player to arrive at the ballpark not just wanting to win, but expecting it.
"I was able to talk to my team about it and they understood what I said. No one took offense to that and I think this team gets it," Romero said. "They know what we're out for. Every single one of these guys, you look at them in the face and they'll tell you this team can do some special things. I hate watching the playoffs at home. I want to be part of it. The city of Toronto deserves it and this team I think is going to be ready."