Blue Jays release rehabbing Romero

Club didn't expect starter would recover in time to contribute

Blue Jays release rehabbing Romero

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Ricky Romero era with the Blue Jays has officially come to an end after the club's former No. 1 starter was granted his release on Saturday afternoon.

Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos met with Romero at the club's Minor League complex in Dunedin, Fla. to deliver the news. The organization felt it was in Romero's best interest to be released because the Blue Jays didn't think he would be ready to return this season.

The Blue Jays are still on the hook for Romero's $7.5 million salary in 2015 plus a $600,000 buyout for his $13.1 million option in 2015. Romero becomes a free agent, but still faces a long road to recovery as he rehabs from a pair of knee surgeries.

"His recovery, his rehab is just going very slow at this point," Anthopoulos told reporters Saturday afternoon. "We made the determination, we just didn't think that by the end of the year he was going to be able to factor for us up here. Knowing this was the last year of his contract, we felt it was best to just give him the opportunity to give him a head start somewhere else."

Romero's release would have been unfathomable a few years ago, when he was considered a cornerstone of the franchise. He broke into the league in 2009, showed considerable progress in three consecutive seasons and along the way earned a five-year contract extension worth $30.05 million.

The first year of that deal worked out extremely well as Romero went 15-11 with a 2.92 ERA during an All-Star season. More of the same was expected in future years but instead that proved to be the high point. Romero was never able to duplicate the performance.

Romero went 9-14 with a 5.77 ERA in 2012 and the following year he didn't make the team out of Spring Training. He has battled a degenerative condition in his knees and his own issues on the mound, which have led to a loss of control.

The 30-year-old Romero had been working out in Dunedin and threw a bullpen session Saturday morning. The Blue Jays didn't view him as a viable candidate to return this year, however, which prompted the club to provide an opportunity for a fresh start elsewhere.

"Once we made the determination that we didn't think he wasn't going to be able to come back and help us for the current year, it was the right thing to do by him," Anthopoulos said. "To have him continue to come in, in Florida, have him get treatment on his knees, build up arm strength, to do all that when we've, internally, made the determination that we don't see it's going to come in time.

"He's worked tremendously hard. We have nothing but the highest praise for the way he's gone about it."

Romero's time in Toronto is over but the questions about what happened to his career will continue to linger for quite some time. Even three years later, it's something Anthopoulos and the Blue Jays organization can't really explain.

"Obviously, look, no one wanted to see what happened to him and it's still, to this day, I think I mentioned this to him as well, I don't think anybody has an explanation," Anthopoulos said.

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.