As recently as 2011, Blue Jays left-hander Ricky Romero and Red Sox right-hander Daniel Bard were considered two of the best young pitchers in baseball. Romero went 15-11 with a 2.92 ERA for Toronto as their post-Roy Halladay opening day starter that year. Bard pitched to a 3.33 ERA with 9.1 K/9 as Jonathan Papelbon's primary setup man.
The last 14 months or so have been nightmarish for both pitchers, however. Instead of building on that breakout season, the 28-year-old Romero went 9-14 with a 5.77 ERA in 32 starts last season. Bard, 27, went 4-6 with a 5.30 ERA and more walks (36) than strikeouts (34) in 10 starts before being sent to Triple-A. Both pitchers opened 2013 in the minors, and neither has shown improvement.
On Thursday afternoon, Romero allowed three runs in 3 2/3 innings for the Blue Jays' Triple-A affiliate. He walked six and struck out one, giving him 11 walks and one strikeout in two Triple-A starts after a stellar seven-inning start (one run and no walks) with the team's High-A affiliate in April. In two spot starts with Toronto, Romero allowed six runs and five walks while whiffing four in 4 1/3 innings.
Bard, on the other hand, walked five of eight batters faced in one inning of work for Boston's Double-A affiliate on Wednesday. Just 10 of his 38 pitches were strikes. In 12 2/3 minor league innings this year, he has walked 17 and uncorked eight wild pitches. In two big-league innings a few weeks ago, he walked two and struck out one in one inning.
In 23 1/3 combined minor-league innings this year, Romero and Bard have allowed 18 runs, 22 walks and nine wild pitches. Neither has made any progress in 2013 following their disappointing seasons in 2012. Yes, it's still early, but these two desperately needed to get off to strong starts, just for their confidence if nothing else. Eighteen months ago, they looked like franchise cornerstones. Now, they're looking more like flame-outs.