DUNEDIN, Florida - If Ricky Romero needs a reminder to throw his patented sinker more often, he need only look to the locker stall on his left.
There sits Brandon Morrow, teammate, fellow pitcher and possessor of a chart serving as a friendly reminder to the left-hander.
"Brandon, this spring, he showed me this sheet of how much my sinker percentage dropped from 2011 to 2012 and I was a little bit amazed by it," said Romero. "It dropped significantly and I felt like last year I kind of abandoned that pitch. I used to throw that pitch 1-0, 2-0, it didn't matter and get those groundball outs."
You can see for yourself what Morrow uncovered. According to brooksbaseball.net, Romero threw the sinker for 11-percent of his pitches last season. He went 9-14 with an ERA of 5.77. In 2011, Romero threw the sinker 22-percent of the time on his way to career highs in wins (15) and ERA (2.92).
"It's one of those things where you really don't realize what happened until the damage is all done," said Romero of last season. "It's just trusting (the sinker) at times you go 1-0, 2-0 and back off a little bit. In years past, you throw it down the middle and let it work."
Scheduled to throw two innings against the Twins on Tuesday, Romero fell just short of completing the task.
Following a three-up, three-down first inning, Romero hit a speed bump in the second thanks to poor defence and one pitch he would like to have back.
Minnesota's Justin Morneau led off the second with a single. Romero coaxed a would-be double play ball off the bat of Trevor Plouffe but second baseman Maicer Izturis bounced the throw to first. One out later, Joe Benson got all of a hanging sinker for a two-run home run. Romero was pulled one batter later after walking Brian Dozier.
Romero struggled to find the strike zone. Of his 36 pitches, only 17 were strikes. Romero estimates 90-95 per cent of his pitches on Tuesday were sinkers.