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Happy Birthday Ricky Romero

Tampa Bay Rays v Toronto Blue Jays

Ricky Romero turns 35 today.

Ricky was born in East Los Angeles, CA. He was drafted in the first round of the 2005 draft (6th overall) by the Blue Jays, out of California State University, Fullerton. A lot has been made of the fact that Troy Tulowitzki was the next pick, by the Rockies. No one mentions that the Mariners used the third pick on Jeff Clement, so we could have done worse.

Ricky didn’t exactly burn it up on his trip through the Jays minor league system. In 2008, the season before he made it to the majors, Ricky went 5-5 with a 4.96 ERA in 21 starts at Double-A New Hampshire, though he did have a 3.38 ERA in his 7 Triple-A starts. In his 81 career minor league starts he was 16-23 with a 4.42 ERA with 183 walks and 336 strikeouts in 430 innings. Not numbers that make you think you have a top of the rotation starter.

Romero became the poster boy for the ‘Ricciardi doesn’t know how to draft’ crowd. I’ll admit, I never thought he was a prospect. His control wasn’t great and he didn’t strike a lot of guys out, so I didn’t think he had much hope for a MLB career.

Something changed during spring training in 2009. Our pitching pitching coach at the time, Brad Arnsberg, made a small change to Romero’s windup. I don’t know if that’s what turned things around for Ricky, but he made the major league rotation to start the season.

Romero went 13-9 with a 4.30 ERA in 29 starts in his rookie season. He walked 79 while striking out 141 in 178 innings. He was second among AL rookies in wins, 3rd in innings pitched, 2nd in strikeouts and 4th in ERA. His 13 wins was also the 2nd most wins ever for a Blue Jay rookie, one short of Mark Eichhorn’s 14 in 1986. His first major league start was against a fellow first round draft pick, Detroit’s Rick Porcello. Ricky got the win. He tied out season record by throwing 24 consecutive scoreless innings (matched by Roy Halladay) from June 24 to July 6. Ricky missed a few starts with an oblique strain, going on the DL April 20 returning to the Jays May 25.

Ricky improved some in 2010, winning 14 games, making 32 starts and pitching 210 innings. He brought ERA down to 3.73, his walk rate down a little and strikeout rate up a little. Ricky started the season really well, he was 5-2 with a 3.12 ERA at the end of May and finished well, going 7-2 over the last couple of months. He helped himself out by keeping the ball on the ground and getting 25 double plays turned behind him. On April 13th he took a no-hitter into the 8th inning against the White Sox but Alex Rios hit a home run to end the fun. He led the AL in wild pitches with 18.

During the 2010 season, the Blue Jays signed Ricky to a 5-year contract extension, worth $30.1 million with a club option for the 2016 season at $13.1 million.

In 2011, with the off-season trade of Shawn Marcum, Ricky became the number one starter in the Jays rotations. He set new highs in wins (15), innings pitched (225), strikeouts (178) while setting a new low for ERA at 2.92, 6th best in the AL. He made his first All-Star team and was 10th in Cy Young voting. He went 5-0 in August, with a 2.05 ERA and was named AL Pitcher of the Month. He finished the season on a 8-2 run. Baseball Reference has him at a 5.9 WAR for 2011, making it his best season so far but Fangraphs figures WAR differently and has 2010 as his best season at a 4.1 WAR.

2012 is where things turned bad. He had a 5.77 ERA in 32 starts. He led the league with 105 walks in 181 innings and had just 124 walks.

2013 didn’t go well, he spent a lot of time in the DL and a lot some time in the minors trying to fix his delivery. He only pitched 7.1 innings in the majors.

2014 was the same mess of DL time and time in the minors and he was released at the end of the season. He signed with the Giants, but never made it back to the majors. He was released in April of 2017.

It’s sad that knee troubles ruined a very promising career. He seemed like a great guy.

Ricky announced his retirement in January of this year. He did some work on Vancouver Canadians broadcasts this season. He seemed good at the job.

Happy birthday Ricky, I hope it is a good one.

John Candelaria turns 66 today. The Candy Man pitched in 600 major league games, finishing with a 177-122 record. 13 of those games and 3 of those losses came with our Blue Jays back in 1990. We picked him up at the end of July for the playoff run from the Twins, giving up Nelson Liriano and Pedro Munoz to get him. He didn’t help much. We finished 2 games back of the Red Sox, in second place. Candelarria made 2 starts and 11 relief appearances, earning an 0-3 record and a 5.48 ERA. If he pitched as well for us as he had earlier in the season for the Twins (7-3, 3.39 in 34 games, 1 start) we’d have made the playoffs. For some reason my memory of him is much better than he performed.

John had a long career in the majors, 19 seasons (left-handers can play forever) and has one World Series ring, from the 1979 Pirates.

Happy birthday John.

Justin Speier turns 46 today.

Speier had a 12-year MLB career, with three of those seasons with the Blue Jays. He pitched out of our bullpen from 2004 to 2006.

He was very good, posting a 3.18 ERA in 185 games, with 7 saves and 43 holds adding up to a 3.8 bWAR.

Justin came to us in trade from the Rays. J.P. Ricciardi sent Mark Hendrickson to Florida for him. The deal worked out well for us. After the 2006 season he signed as a free agent with the Dodgers. He played for them for 3 seasons and then retired

In total he pitched in 613 games, all in relief, with a 4.11 ERA, playing for 7 teams. We got him at his best.

Happy birthday Justin.