Ricky Romero returns to the Blue Jays, will start Friday

Josh Johnson’s triceps injury can be seen one of two ways. Either it’s another piece of disappointing news for a Toronto Blue Jays team that is looking for something, anything to go their way in the early part of the 2013 season, or it’s a chance to inject a fresh face into the lineup, who may be able to provide the kind of spark this team has been looking for since, well, April 2 it seems like.

Ricky Romero is back. The Jays announced Thursday that Johnson would be added to the 15-day disabled list and Romero would take the mound at the Rogers Centre in his place against the Seattle Mariners Friday night.

It’s likely not the way Alex Anthopoulos or John Gibbons envisioned Romero getting back into the lineup being that the 28-year-old only made one start in the month he spent with the Class-A Dunedin Blue Jays. But has anything in the first month of the season gone the way Toronto’s general manager or manager expected it to?

Romero has spent the last month re-working his mechanics with minor-league pitching instructor Dane Johnson. In his one start in Dunedin he pitched seven innings and gave up only one run on six hits.

Anthopoulos told the National Post that he was impressed with Romero’s start on Saturday, but he definitely didn’t give any hints to a potential return date at the time.

“I don’t know yet at this point,” Anthopoulos said. “I want to speak to Dane and see what he feels. If Dane says, ‘Look, let’s move him up, let’s keep him here for one more start,’ I’m really letting Dane, I’m really leaning on him to make the decisions on what he feels is best. You know, Dane’s the one who decided he was ready for a start now. I’m not down there day in and day out; Dane is the one doing the work with him. Alternately, Dane will let me know what he wants to do. For the most part, we’re letting Dane Johnson make the decisions.”

Josh Johnson’s injury likely forced him to consider Romero’s return sooner than he would have liked.

After showing consistent progression year-over-year in the first three seasons of his career Romero took a major step backwards in 2012. As the Jays so-called ‘ace’ he went 9-14 with a 5.77 earned-run average and a 1.67 WHIP in 181 innings pitched.

Over the off-season the franchise brought in the aforementioned Johnson as well as Mark Buehrle and reigning National League Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey and Romero quickly went from being the franchise’s No.1 starting pitcher to the fifth starter in the rotation. And he couldn’t even hold on to that spot.

After a rocky pre-season the team optioned Romero to single-A Dunedin and promoted J.A. Happ, who many believed would start the year with the AAA Buffalo Bisons.

He told the media shortly after being told he’d been demoted back in March.

“It hurts and it hits me to the bottom of my heart, because I care so much and I’ve worked so hard for everything I have . . . “I’m not a minor-league pitcher, I’m a major-league pitcher. I’m an all-star for a reason. I’m going to throw out all this stuff because I am confident in my abilities.”

Friday will be his first chance to prove his abilities at a point in the season when the Jays really need something positive to get behind. Nobody is expecting Ricky Romero to return and instantly be back to his old self, but most will be looking for at the very least, some signs of progression.

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