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Confidence is key

Ricky Romero was at a crossroads in his career in spring training this year.

Ricky Romero was at a crossroads in his career in spring training this year.

The Blue Jays’ starter was struggling in his efforts to make the big league club and avoid heading back to the minors to begin the season. He’d been toiling in Toronto’s farm system for four years since his first-round selection in the 2005 draft and didn’t want to go back.

After all, the minor leagues were filled with bad memories for the left-hander, who stumbled to a 16-22 record there.

“It was some rough times in the minors,” said Romero, 24. “I lost my confidence there. I was kind of lost. It was one of those things where you come out of college and you’re so used to being successful and then you get hit right in the mouth and you don’t know how to react.”

With Romero about to be optioned back to the minors in March, though, something changed. Jays’ pitching coach Brad Arnsberg sat down with the left-hander during a bullpen session and had a conversation with the pitcher that would irrevocably change his mindset.

“He told me, ‘If you had the same confidence that I do in your pitches and your abilities, that’s when you’re going to be successful up here,’” Romero recalled. “I think that sunk in really, really well that day when he told me that. You know, I do have the stuff to pitch in the big leagues, but it’s just a matter of being confident.

“That day turned everything around and kind of took off to where I’m at right now.”

Right now, Romero is in the midst of a rookie-of-the-year type of season. His steamrolling confidence has translated into 10 wins which, entering Thursday, was tied for first among American League rookies.

But most importantly, Romero’s current success has allowed him to come to peace with the dark clouds that often represented the minors.

“The biggest thing I think I did was keep my head on straight and just kept grinding and fighting, year in and year out,” Romero said. “I now know that in the time I spent in the minors, I matured a lot. I grew up as a player and as a person.

“It made me the person I am today.”

 
 
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