DUNEDIN, Fla. -- When Ricky Romero is effective on the mound, it's usually because he's locating his sinker and inducing a lot of ground-ball outs.
That's something he got away from last year during a nightmarish season in which he posted a 9-14 record and career-worst 5.77 ERA. As the struggles got worse, he began throwing the sinker less and less.
It's not something he really noticed until Brandon Morrow arrived at Spring Training with a sheet of information from BrooksBaseball.net. The chart showed Romero went from utilizing his sinker 22 percent of the time in 2011 all the way down to 11 percent the following year.
"I was kind of amazed by it, it dropped significantly," Romero said. "I felt like last year I kind of abandoned that pitch. I used to throw that pitch 1-0, 2-0, it didn't matter, just get those ground-ball outs.
"I think it's going to be key and that's why I'm going to stick with it this spring. If I get hit, I get hit, but I know I'm working on that pitch and I know if it's down, it's going to be a ground-ball out more often than not."
Romero almost exclusively threw sinkers during his spring debut on Tuesday afternoon against the Twins. The results were mixed, as he was able to throw just 17 of his 36 pitches for strikes while surrendering a pair of runs in 1 2/3 innings.
The performance this time of the year, though, doesn't really matter. Romero is saving his four-seam fastball and curveball for later this spring. Those two pitches aren't the priority right now. He wants to perfect the sinker so when April rolls around he can get back to the pitcher he was in 2011 when he posted 2.92 ERA in 225 innings.
"It's one of those things where I think maybe we got caught up in throwing the cutter more because it was so successful in 2011," Romero said. "But looking back at it, everything builds off that sinker. If you're able to command that down and away, it opens up that inner half, and I think at times I didn't give myself a chance."