J.C. Romero says he thinks he has his throwing problems licked

J.C. Romero is booed as he walks off the mound during Tuesday's lopsided loss. He allowed two runs in the ninth.
J.C. Romero is booed as he walks off the mound during Tuesday's lopsided loss. He allowed two runs in the ninth.
Posted: August 12, 2010

J.C. Romero said he was embarrassed. But he was more concerned about rationalizing how it was possible to walk a relief pitcher batting for the first time in his seven-year career.

"I knew he wasn't going to swing," the Phillies lefthander said Wednesday. "I'm trying to throw the ball in the middle of the plate and the ball is moving. Down. Up. In. Out."

After the walk to Dodgers pitcher George Sherrill in the ninth inning of Tuesday's blowout loss, Charlie Manuel yanked Romero, who was simply trying to record three outs and end the Phillies' miserable night. He couldn't do it.

Romero faced four batters and retired only one, snowballing what has been a hideous stretch. Of the last 11 batters Romero has faced since Aug. 1, eight have reached base. The way Romero talks, his recent struggles are both mental and mechanical.

"I know what I'm doing," Romero said.

It took Tuesday for Romero to have that confidence. Immediately after exiting the game, Romero went to the video room to watch what had transpired. While he was on the mound, he said the 12th pitch he threw - an 83 m.p.h. slider to Casey Blake - was the first sign something was definitely wrong.

"That's the first pitch I went to watch when I came in," Romero said. "I saw my hand was slow. Not my arm. My arm got there. My hand was slow."

Huh?

"I still, to a certain extent, don't understand what the problem is," Manuel said Wednesday. "We have to find out about it."

Romero is convinced he has figured it all out. The issue still stems from his off-season elbow surgery, the first serious injury Romero, 34, had suffered in his career. He said he is healthy now, but still dealing with a by-product of the surgery.

Early in the season, Romero pitched effectively, but he was also hesitant on the mound. He changed some of his mechanics to allow more caution and was doing everything "more deliberately."

A mental adjustment is needed now, Romero said.

"I'm free to go," Romero said. "I need to make my mind understand, 'You are healthy. Go for it.' "

The other half is mechanical.

"I have to get used to being healthy again," he said. "My muscle memory has to be the way it was before. In the beginning, I was effective this year but my arm speed was slower and my hand was slower.

"But now, I feel real strong. So I have to make sure my hand stays on top of the ball every pitch like it was before my surgery. That's all."

The Phillies need Romero to convert his realization into results soon. Until Tuesday, he was the only lefthander in the bullpen. The team added Antonio Bastardo, who allowed a run on three hits in two-thirds of an inning Tuesday. Don't expect help from outside the organization.

"This time of year it's difficult to make those kind of moves," said Scott Proefrock, the Phillies' assistant general manager.

Romero, who is never short on words or confidence, said he is in a better state of mind having apparently uncovered what eluded him before.

"I'm so close," he said. "I'm very, very close."


Contact staff writer Matt Gelb at 215-854-2928 or mgelb@phillynews.com.

Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/magelb.

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