Romero a strong candidate for Rookie of the Year

Toronto freshman Ricky Romero has just two chances left to make his case for American League Rookie of the Year.

After a no-decision against the Seattle Mariners Thursday night, his window is closing to earn enough respect to be handed the Jackie Robinson Award.

A win would have been ideal for Romero, but the no-decision was helpful. Three runs over six and a third innings slightly lowers his season ERA to 4.27, and the five strikeouts will add to his already impressive 130 Ks.

He will likely get a chance at Boston on Sept. 29 and Oct. 4 in Baltimore, the Jays’ final game of the season.

The outting against Seattle and the two remaining games will give Romero the opportunity to erase his previous five  starts. The left-hander struggled, going 1-4 with a 6.04 ERA and handing out 20 walks over 28 1/3 innings.

One highlight from that stretch was that he also had 28 strikeouts, almost one per inning.

Making the cut straight out of spring training, the native of Los Angeles impressed from his first start, a 6-2 win over the Detroit Tigers on April 9.

Since then, Romero has won a total of 12 games, with a 4.27 earned runs average while striking out 130 hitters.

“It’s awesome,” said injured pitcher Jesse Litsch, to the Blue Jays official website. “He did in Spring Training what he needed to do and it’s shown all season. It’s shown and he’s been throwing the ball very well this year.”

Romero’s chief competition for rookie honours is a familiar foe: Rick Porcello, the opposing starter in his Major League debut.

Since losing to the Jays, Porcello (14-9) has struck out 80 hitters, and given up an average of 4.14 earned runs.

Tampa Bay Rays rookie Jeff Niemann (12-6) has also pitched well in 2009, striking out an impressive 117 batters with a low 3.81 ERA.

Although young pitching has been dominant this season, two fielders have also performed well.

Third baseman Gordon Beckham has hit .266 with 13 home runs and 56 runs batted in for the Chicago White Sox. Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus has a slightly better average at .270 but for less power with six blasts and 34 RBIs.

If Romero takes advantage of his remaining starts, he should be able to surpass his pitching competition statistically, and stay ahead of the hitters that are in the running for the Jackie Robinson trophy.

Romero was drafted sixth overall by the Blue Jays in 2005 as an amateur coming out of Cal State Fullerton. He joined the organization with a $2.4 million signing bonus.

As a prospect he spent two years at Double-A before reaching Triple-A last season, then won a spot in Toronto’s rotation this spring.