LAKELAND, Fla. -- Ricky Romero knows there are plenty of skeptics out there who think he will never be as good as he once was.
The voices are hard to ignore, but it is something he has slowly learned to cope with. At least publicly, Romero said he was no longer interested in talking about what went wrong and would rather focus on what went right.
That's at least one of the reasons why Romero still appeared upbeat despite giving up three runs in three innings of work against the Tigers on Friday afternoon.
"I'm confident that I'm going to be back to the guy that everybody is used to seeing," said Romero, who has a 7.27 ERA this spring. "I'm very confident, and there are a lot of things that are positive about today, and that's what I'll stick to.
"It's a work in progress, I'm not hitting the panic button, I'm sure a lot of people are, but stay with me."
Romero's outing against Detroit wasn't exactly pretty. He walked two of the first three batters before giving up an RBI single to Victor Martinez in the 30-pitch frame.
The second and third innings were much better, despite a similar result on the scoreboard. In the second it was a solo home run by Jhonny Peralta, and in the third it was a leadoff double by Austin Jackson, which eventually led to the ugly pitching line.
But the pace and rhythm in which Romero pitched was vastly superior to how he started the game. Romero indicated that last year he might have focused on the first inning, when everything went wrong, but this Spring Training he is instead focusing on what he liked about the performance.
"The quality of pitches in the second and third inning," Romero said when asked what he liked best. "You take away that first inning, I felt like I worked down in the zone. Changeup, I threw some really good ones other than the first inning. Got some ground balls, got a strikeout, you take away those two walks, let the guys put the ball in play, I definitely have a chance to do a lot better."
Spring Training requires two very different approaches
LAKELAND, Fla. -- In some ways, Spring Training is a tale of the haves and have nots.
Players with guaranteed jobs have the luxury of being able to take their time and work on specific things in each outing. The results take a backseat to preparing for the year, and as long as they are ready to go by Opening Day, the numbers do not matter.
The same can't be said for players who find themselves needing to perform well to make the team. There is a definite balance between players' going out there with their best stuff and working on specific things that might make them better down the road.
"The guys that are on the team, they're still just working on their stuff, because results don't really matter," manager John Gibbons said. "The guys who are trying to make the team and trying to make a good impression, it's more about results.
"You'll start to see more of a game approach [soon], but guys are still working on different parts of their game, the guys who are established anyways."
Toronto is currently ranked seventh in Spring Training with a 4.58 staff ERA while also ranking seventh with 66 walks. The staff is mostly set in stone but still has a lot of candidates vying for two jobs in the bullpen.
Brett Cecil, Aaron Loup, Brad Lincoln and Jeremy Jeffress are the front-runners, but the list also includes the likes of J.A. Happ, Dave Bush, Neil Wagner, Ramon Ortiz and Justin Germano.
What makes evaluating that competition more difficult is that those pitchers are often throwing against Minor Leaguers. After starting pitchers come out of the game, position players usually follow relatively soon afterward.
"You'd want to see them against the best, but it's hard to do sometimes," Gibbons said. "It's starting to get to that point in Spring Training where the regulars are going to start playing a bit more in the next week or so, so it's a little bit different game.
"If it's a pitcher, you look at what he's doing with his pitches, not necessarily the results. Are his pitches crisp, sharp; is he hitting his spots? That kind of thing. That outweighs who he is facing against the end of the game that haven't established themselves either."
Lincoln nearing return to bullpen competition
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Right-hander Brad Lincoln is nearing a return to the mound following a brief absence with soreness in his right shoulder.
Toronto's right-hander has not appeared in a game since March 9, when he threw one scoreless inning against the Tigers.
"He was a little tender in the shoulder, but he shouldn't be too far off," manager John Gibbons said prior to Friday's 4-2 loss to Detroit. "In the next couple of days he'll be pitching."
Lincoln can ill afford to miss very much time considering he is competing for one of the final two spots in Toronto's bullpen. The 27-year-old had previously been attempting to stretch out as a starter, but that plan was abandoned in early March.
The Blue Jays also are considering Brett Cecil, Aaron Loup, Jeremy Jeffress and to a lesser extent J.A. Happ and Neil Wagner for the final two spots in the bullpen.
Lincoln could make a strong case for one of the jobs, but he has options remaining on his contract and could start the year at Triple-A Buffalo. The same cannot be said for Cecil and Jeffress, who both would have to clear waivers before being sent down.
In 24 games last season for the Blue Jays, Lincoln had a 5.65 ERA in 28 2/3 innings. His numbers in Pittsburgh were more favorable, as he posted an impressive 2.73 ERA and 60 strikeouts in 59 1/3 innings of work.