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."
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.