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Romero makes dream debut

Romero makes dream debut

Sleep did not come easily for Ricky Romero on the eve of the biggest game of his life.

"I just kept waking up all night, just checking my clock, making sure I wasn't late," the engaging 24-year-old Californian said with a shy smile.

If he was groggy for his long-awaited major-league debut, Romero didn't show it, throwing six solid innings yesterday as the Toronto Blue Jays turned on the power in a 6-2 win over the Detroit Tigers.

In a matinee tilt before a slender crowd of 15,297 at Rogers Centre, five of Toronto's 12 hits went for extra bases, including three home runs that lifted Romero to his first big-league victory.

Combined with a couple of outstanding defensive plays, it was a satisfying triumph for the Blue Jays, who took three of four games from the Tigers in the season-opening homestand.

"If we keep doing this," right fielder Alex Rios said, "we'll win, like, 300 games."

Yesterday was a long time coming for Romero, who has struggled to live up to the expectations of being Toronto's first-round draft choice in 2005, the sixth player taken overall.

Stuck in the minors the last four years, Romero finally experienced a breakthrough during spring training after Jays pitching coach Brad Arnsberg convinced him to have confidence in all four pitches in his repertoire (slider, changeup, curve and fastball).

Romero made the team out of spring training, and yesterday, his mother, father, two sisters and brother all made the long journey from Los Angeles in a show of support.

"It's a special moment," said Romero, who allowed both Detroit runs off seven hits, while striking out five. "It's a day that I'll never forget."

Oddly enough, Romero wasn't the only pitcher breaking in yesterday.

Rookie right-hander Rick Porcello, who is regarded as one of the best young pitching prospects in Baseball, also made his major-league debut for the Tigers.

Long, lean and lanky, Porcello was Detroit's first-round draft selection in 2007 (27th overall).

The rookie showdown marked the first time since the MLB draft began in 1965 that two first-round picks made their major-league pitching debuts against each other.

"I was really calm, actually," Romero said about his first meaningful big-league start. "I think I was more nervous warming up coming into the game than I was in the actual game.

"Once I threw that first pitch, I was, 'All right, this is Baseball,' and we just went from there."

Porcello wasn't too shabby, giving up four runs off nine hits, including two of Toronto's three homers, before departing after five innings.

Detroit opened up a 2-0 lead in a third inning that could have spelled disaster for Romero. He surrendered a solo homer to Curtis Granderson, then a triple to Marcus Thames, whose long blast careened off the right-field wall, deflected back and struck Rios, who was giving chase, in the right temple.

Stunned, but otherwise okay, Rios remained in the game.

After Thames scored on Magglio Ordonez's infield single, Miguel Cabrera singled and Carlos Guillen was hit by a pitch to load the bases with two out for Brandon Inge, who crunched a grounder to the left side that had single written all over it.

Jose Bautista, starting at third base in place of Scott Rolen, had other ideas. Bautista dived to his left to make a great grab and his accurate throw nipped Inge at first base to save Romero and the Jays from falling behind any further.

"I think that was the biggest turning point in the game right there," Romero said. "They were hoping for a big inning ... with the bases loaded and Jose made a great diving play and helped me out. The defence played great. That's what we're going to need to win ball games."

In the fourth inning, the Toronto defence stepped up again after Adam Everett hit a double to right-centre and Ramon Santiago, trying to score all the way from first base, was thrown out at home on a nice throw by cutoff man Aaron Hill.

After that the Toronto offence stepped up, scoring a run in the fourth and the fifth (a home run by Hill) inning, before burying the Tigers with a four-run sixth.

Adam Lind led off the sixth with a solo homer, and Marco Scutaro later added a two-run shot.

The Blue Jays now have seven homers this season. After four games last year, they'd hit two.



NOTES The Toronto Blue Jays now head to Cleveland for the start of a seven-day, seven-game road trip, beginning this afternoon with the first of a three-game series against the Indians . Then, the Jays will move on to Minnesota for four games against the Twins, before returning to Toronto on April 17 to begin a three-game set against the Oakland Athletics. ... Today's game will be the Indians' home opener, after starting on the road with three games in Texas against the Rangers. ... The average age of the Indians' opening-day roster was 28.67 years, third-youngest in the American League.

NEXT Today, at Cleveland Indians , 4:05 p.m. EDT

PROBABLE PITCHERS Jays RHP Scott Richmond (0-0) v. Indians LHP Scott Lewis (0-0)

TV Rogers Extra Innings preview

Robert MacLeod

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Added: April 10, 2009

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