TORONTO -- Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos recently went through a lengthy list of pitchers who might be under consideration for a job next spring, and one conspicuous absence from the discussion was left-hander Ricky Romero.
Romero was expected to start this season as the Blue Jays' No. 5 starter but after a rough Spring Training, he was optioned to the Minor Leagues. The goal was to get the former All-Star left-hander back on track, but with the season nearing its conclusion, Toronto still has the same doubts it had back in April.
The 28-year-old Romero has struggled to a 4-8 record and a 5.88 ERA in 21 starts for Triple-A Buffalo this season, and even though he's owed $15 million over the next two years, there are no longer any guarantees about his future role.
"I think everyone is hopeful, and we just don't have the answer on what will it take to get him back to where he was -- to be that All-Star," Anthopoulos said when asked specifically about whether Romero could enter the mix again. "I don't have doubts that the ability is there and that he is capable, but to try and handicap it, put a time frame on it, I just have no idea.
"I never would have predicted this to happen to begin with. Even with how he began the season last year -- 8-1, his ERA was in the low 4.00s -- I never would have predicted what would happen to him the last few months of the season. To try and do it now, it doesn't make any sense."
When Anthopoulos expanded on his thoughts about Romero, the conversation seemed eerily similar to those that took place at the beginning of the season. Toronto will continue to monitor Romero's progress for the remainder of the season, but that will likely include just a pair of starts, unless Buffalo sneaks into the postseason.
Toronto's GM remained noncommittal when asked if Romero is a candidate for a callup in September. Instead, Anthopoulos talked about the need for a third catcher and the return of injured pitchers Steve Delabar and Dustin McGowan. Right-handers Drew Hutchison and Kyle Drabek also are expected to return, and whether anyone else makes the cut depends on the amount of available innings.
Romero hasn't exactly done himself any favors lately with his performance at Buffalo. The lefty has allowed five or more runs in all but one of his past five starts, and his latest outing, on Tuesday, included six walks. Romero has occasionally shown glimpses of his past ability -- he won 15 games and posted a 2.92 ERA in 2011 -- but more than anything, there has been a lot of inconsistency.
"He's had starts where you definitely believe it's around the corner," Anthopoulos said. "He has spurts where it looks like it's coming back, and then he has had starts where he didn't perform as well. With him, you're evaluating every single start.
"We just need to see the consistency. He's still young, and he still has stuff. Hopefully, next Spring Training he comes in, but I can't project at this point what he's going to do moving forward. We know the ability is there -- we've all seen it -- just consistency-wise we haven't seen it."
Scoreless rehab inning Delabar's first step
TORONTO -- On Wednesday, reliever Steve Delabar took the first step toward returning to the Blue Jays before the end of the season.
The right-hander pitched a scoreless inning in the Rookie Gulf Coast League, facing the Yankees' affiliate. Delabar entered the game in the fourth inning and didn't allow a hit or a walk, picking up a hold.
It was a significant step for the 30-year-old righty, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list and temporarily shut down due to right shoulder inflammation on Aug. 4.
Before hitting the disabled list, Delabar was being watched cautiously by the Blue Jays, as he had been dealing with the soreness for several weeks when the club ultimately decided to shut him down.
It was obvious after the All-Star break that the setup man wasn't quite himself leading up to his DL stint.
Prior to the Midsummer Classic, the first-time All-Star was 5-1 with a 1.71 ERA, a 1.26 WHIP and 58 strikeouts in 42 innings. In 7 2/3 innings after the break, he has gone 0-1 with a 9.39 ERA, a 1.70 WHIP and 17 strikeouts.
News of Gibbons' return has players pleased
TORONTO -- Manager John Gibbons received the unequivocal support of general manager Alex Anthopoulos on Tuesday, and Gibbons' players were happy to hear that their skipper will be returning in 2014.
Many on the club felt that their manager was not solely responsible for the lack of performance leading to a 59-74 record heading into Wednesday's rubber match with the Yankees.
"I don't think he's the guy to blame," closer Casey Janssen said. "He's not the guy throwing the ball, catching the ball or hitting the ball. He's done a nice job for us. Sometimes the manager can be the sacrificial lamb, but I think our coaching staff has done a nice job. It's nice to get the support from the GM and see him around next year."
Gibbons has faced his share of pressure this season, but the stability and consistency he brings as manager were potential factors in the team's decision to bring him back next year.
Like Janssen, Adam Lind has been through three managerial changes in his time with the Blue Jays, and he knows the benefits of having consistency from a manager.
"We need stability, and it starts with the manager," Lind said. "He's the leader; it's the most important part."
While both players are happy to hear of Gibbons' return, they are also acutely aware of how frustrating this season has been, especially considering it has followed an offseason that placed expectations on the club.
"It's frustrating," Janssen said. "This is the first season we had an expectation to compete in the AL East, and all across baseball. It gets tiring to lose as much as we have."
After Monday's 5-2 victory, R.A. Dickey said the greatest disappointment of this season would be if the Blue Jays didn't grow from the experience.
Janssen echoed that sentiment.
"Being a Blue Jays lifer, so to speak, I want to taste the postseason," Janssen said. "I want a meaningful September. Unfortunately, it's not happening this year. Hopefully, we build enough for next year and to continue on to be the team we thought we could be."
Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. Evan Peaslee is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.