When speaking about J.C. Romero's chance at returning to action by Opening Day, the Phillies' tone certainly hasn't been optimistic this season. But the veteran lefthander has been encouraged by his recent recovery, and said today that he expects to be with the team when it breaks camp and flies North at the beginning of April.
Romero, who had surgery to repair a second-degree tear of his flexor tendon in October, said doctors have told him that he could be ready for Grapefruit League action by the second week of March.
"My mindset is for me to break camp with the team," said Romero, who appeared in just 21 games last season. "I'm going to be smart. I don't want any set-backs. I feel comfortable about it, but I also have to follow instructions. If they say I have to stay here a week after that, I have to stay here. Period. They write the checks. They are the bosses. I'm just an employee. I've got to be smart. But I'm good, man. I have confidence that I will break camp with the team."
Romero's situation is an interesting one.
Two years ago, he appeared in half of the team's 162 games, posting a 2.75 ERA and a 1.339 WHIP while providing a complement to Ryan Madson in the eighth inning. Last year, however, was a lost cause, one that began with a 50-game suspension that seemed to end just as his elbow problems started.
Romero pitched just 16.2 innings, recording more walks (13) than strikeouts (12). If he can return to full strength, he would give the Phillies a badly-needed left-handed option and take even more pressure off closer Brad Lidge and Madson.
In the meantime, unproven prospects Antonio Bastardo and Sergio Escalona are the cheap lefty options in camp.
Jose Contreras and Jamie Moyer are the only two pitchers who have not been spotted in the Phillies clubhouse. Lefty J.A. Happ and righty Scott Mathieson both threw bullpen sessions today.
New back-up catcher Brian Schneider, a Northampton native, was rocking a Penn State football T-Shirt.