Ricky Romero sure gave the Blue Jays that sinking feeling when he took the mound last season. The supposed ace of the staff was 9-14 with a 5.77 ERA.
During the off-season the left-hander had a procedure to clean out his left elbow and treatment to help his sore knees.
That aside, he realized that he stopped throwing his sinker so much last season. He began working on regaining confidence in his sinker again early in spring training, using it almost exclusively in his first Grapefruit League start.
"It's one of those things where I think maybe we got caught up in throwing the cutter more because it was so successful in 2011," Romero said. "But looking back at it, everything builds off that sinker. If you're able to command that down and away, it opens up that inner half, and I think at times I didn't give myself a chance."
Right-hander Brandon Morrow opened Romero's eyes to how little he threw the sinker last season by showing him information that appeared on BrooksBaseball.net. It showed that Romero used his sinker 11 per cent of the time in 2012, half as much as he used it in 2011.
"I was kind of amazed by it, it dropped significantly," Romero said. "I felt like last year I kind of abandoned that pitch. I used to throw that pitch 1-0, 2-0, it didn't matter, just get those ground-ball outs. I think it's going to be key and that's why I'm going to stick with it this spring.
"If I get hit, I get hit, but I know I'm working on that pitch and I know if it's down, it's going to be a ground-ball out more often than not."
Manager John Gibbons said that pitching coach Pete Walker has talked to Romero about using the sinker more.
"It's a big pitch for him," Gibbons said. "It's a groundball pitch, you can get double plays. That's your primary pitch and you can work off that. Even though they know it's coming, it's got movement on it."
With a fortified starting rotation anchored by 2012 National League Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey, Romero has gone from being the opening day starter in 2012 to going fifth in the rotation in 2013.
There's not much pressure on him in such a deep rotation.
But if he can use the sinker the way he did in 2011, it should go a long way to removing that sinking feeling the Blue Jays fans had when he took the mound last season.