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Happy Birthday Ricky Romero and Alejandro Kirk

Minnesota Twins v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Ricky Romero turns 38 today.

Ricky was the Jays’ first-round pick in the first round of the 2005 draft (6th overall), out of California State University, Fullerton). As we all know, Troy Tulowitzki was the next pick by the Rockies. No one mentions that the Mariners used the third pick on Jeff Clement.

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. But, I’ll admit, I never thought he was a prospect. His control wasn’t great, and he didn’t strike many guys out, so I didn’t think he would have an MLB career.

Something changed during spring training in 2009. Our pitching coach, Brad Arnsberg, made a small change to Romero’s windup. Maybe that turned things around for Ricky.

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 A.L. rookies in wins, 3rd in innings pitched, 2nd in strikeouts, and 4th in ERA. His 13 wins were 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 the season record by throwing 24 consecutive scoreless innings (matched by Roy Halladay) from June 24 to July 6. After that, Ricky missed a few starts with an oblique strain, going on the DL on April 20 and returning to the Jays on May 25.

Ricky improved some in 2010, winning 14 games, making 32 starts, and pitching 210 innings. He brought his ERA down to 3.73, his walk rate down a little, and his strikeout rate up a little. Ricky started the season well. Ricky 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 by keeping the ball on the ground and getting 25 double plays turned behind him. On April 13, Romero took a no-hitter into the 8th inning against the White Sox, but Alex Rios hit a home run to end the fun. He also led the A.L. 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), and strikeouts (178) while setting a new low for ERA at 2.92, 6th best in the A.L. Ricky 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 an 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 when things turned sour. Ricky 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. Ricky spent a lot of time in the DL and 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 the Jays released Ricky at the end of the season. He signed with the Giants but never made it back to the majors. S.F. released him in April 2017.

Sadly, knee troubles ruined a promising career. I always wished the best for him because he seemed like a great guy.

Romero has done some work on Vancouver Canadian broadcasts and guest spots on the Jays’ pre-game and between-innings shows. I’d like to see him get a shot at a job on the major league broadcasts.

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

Alejandro Kirk turns 24 today.

24 and 208 MLB games on his Baseball Reference page. Life must be good.

I’m looking forward to watching the rest of his career.

Happy Birthday, Alejandro.

John Candelaria turns 69 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 Twins’ playoff, 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, and Candelaria 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 (7-3, 3.39 in 34 games, 10 starts) we’d have made the playoffs. 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 49 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 posted 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 a 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.

He pitched in 613 games, all in relief, with a 4.11 ERA, playing for seven teams. We got him at his best.

Happy Birthday, Justin.