Given the injuries that have decimated the Toronto Blue Jays' rotation, the last thing they need is for their opening day starter to have trouble finding the plate.
Ricky Romero hopes a return to Rogers Centre, where he hasn't lost in nearly a year, helps solve his control problems Monday night as the Blue Jays open a four-game series with the Kansas City Royals.
The left-hander remains healthy after 60 percent of Toronto's rotation went on the disabled list in June, but Romero's recent performances haven't left the Blue Jays (40-39) feeling good.
He has allowed at least four runs in each of his last seven starts, and the issue lately has been control. Romero (8-2, 4.94 ERA) has walked 10 batters in 10 innings over his last two starts, including six in just three-plus innings during Wednesday's 10-4 loss at Boston.
"I'm just embarrassed in myself more than anything. I feel like I let the team down," Romero said. "Right now when I'm missing, I'm missing bad. I'm not even coming close."
Romero also gave up seven hits and nine runs against the Red Sox. His 52 walks this season - none intentional - are the most in the majors among southpaws.
"Physically, everything is fine," manager John Farrell said. "It's a matter of having conviction, trust and overall belief in the stuff that he possesses."
Those things seem to be more present for Romero at home. He's 5-0 with a 3.83 ERA in Toronto this year and 9-0 in his last 14 home starts since a loss to the New York Yankees last July 16.
Romero has walked 17 in 47 innings at Rogers Centre in 2012, compared to 35 bases on balls in 51 1-3 innings on the road.
He'll face a Kansas City lineup that ranks last in the AL with 200 walks. The Royals (35-42) drew six free passes Sunday, but still lost their third straight to finish a four-game set at Minnesota, 10-8.
They suffered a four-game sweep at home April 20-23 in their first series with the Blue Jays this season. Romero allowed two runs in eight innings of Toronto's 5-3 victory April 22.
Everett Teaford (0-1, 5.06) will start Monday for Kansas City. He made his first major league appearance in two months Wednesday and was sharp against Tampa Bay.
The left-hander, who returned to the Royals after stints on the disabled list (lower abdominal strain) and at Triple-A Omaha, began his outing by striking out five in five shutout innings, but was removed after allowing a walk and a single to begin the sixth. Those two runners scored and the Royals eventually blew a 4-0 lead, but they still won 5-4 thanks to Billy Butler's eighth-inning homer.
Butler, hitting .297 with 16 homers and 48 RBIs, was selected to his first All-Star team Sunday.
"It's an honor to do it, especially when we're hosting it so I get to do it in front of my hometown fans," Butler said.
Toronto's Jose Bautista, 1 for 5 with a single in Sunday's 10-6 loss to the Los Angeles Angels after hitting 14 homers in June, will make his third straight All-Star appearance.
Colby Rasmus hit a three-run homer Sunday for the Blue Jays, giving him eight home runs and 24 RBIs in his last 20 games. Toronto has scored six runs or more 11 times in its last 15 contests, but is just 8-7 in that stretch while its starting pitchers have posted a 6.66 ERA.