TORONTO -- How and when will Ricky Romero snap out of his current funk? That is a question everyone is trying to solve in Blue Jays land, but there are no concrete answers.
No one is more upset than Romero, which was evident following Monday's outing, when he surrendered eight runs for the second consecutive start, allowed a season-high 11 hits, and lost back-to-back games for the first time this season.
Romero was visibly upset and was unable to provide answers to what has been plaguing him. Toronto's ace left-hander, a year after setting career highs in nearly every statistical category en route to his first All-Star Game, will take a 5.35 ERA -- the sixth highest mark in the American League -- into his next start.
Relief pitcher Jason Frasor has been through his own struggles, and feels for Romero, but also believes it is only a matter of time before he rounds back into form.
"It's very frustrating, I've been there, too," Frasor said. "We have all struggled at one point. His head is probably spinning on the mound, and that's no way to pitch. There is always so much to think about. It can become overwhelming out there.
"I'll be 35 next month and I'm still trying to figure it out. He'll figure it out, there is no doubt in my mind."
Frasor, a nine-year veteran, said that despite how well a pitcher's stuff can feel on a given day, once you get behind in a count, you can start thinking too much, worrying about walking him, and that those are the "complete wrong thoughts to have."
"Once you get on that hill, the smallest hiccup out there can trigger thoughts, and thoughts aren't good," Frasor said. "He has to figure it out, he really does. Maybe he just has to let it rip and see what happens. We need that guy, we need him big time. He's an elite starter and that's why he's so frustrated."
Frasor knows that snapping out of a prolonged stretch of rough outings is easier said than done, but that it comes down to simplifying the game and going back to the basics. See the catcher's sign, and throw the ball.
Manager John Farrell believes the same thing. He said Romero needs to focus from pitch-to-pitch and not worry about the bigger outcome of the game.
Farrell reiterated on Tuesday that there were positives to take from Romero's start, such as his ability to throw first-pitch strikes with more frequency. Farrell felt his stuff was more crisp.
The skipper said that Romero's struggles are not mechanical, but that he will continue to review film, even from last year's strong season.
"This is more about pitching with a conviction and an overall trust that will ultimately lead to improved confidence," Farrell said. "This isn't focusing solely on the end result, and I know this is an end-result game, but for us to get Ricky back to that level of consistent performance, we have to look beneath the linescore."
What Farrell doesn't want Romero doing is worrying about the injuries that have sidelined starters Brandon Morrow, Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison, and feel that he needs to pick up the slack for the rest of the rotation.
"What's important for Ricky is to focus on what he can control," Farrell said. "I would hope Ricky doesn't think he has to do more than go out and take care of his own business."
Farrell said he hasn't looked at giving backup catcher Jeff Mathis a start behind the plate when Romero is on the mound. J.P. Arencibia, who has caught Romero's last 49 games, is not part of the problem, according to the skipper.
Mathis has become Cecil's main man
TORONTO -- Tuesday marked Brett Cecil's fourth start of the season, and the fourth with backup catcher Jeff Mathis behind the dish.
Mathis has turned into Cecil's personal catcher, and it's something Mathis thinks can only be a positive for the gameplan they are looking to execute.
"Any time you get to work with somebody on a consistent basis, you are going to figure out some things, realize and recognize things that you may not if you're not in there," Mathis said. "It's an advantage, for sure."
Manager John Farrell has to find ways to get Mathis in the lineup, so pairing him with Cecil has become one way to ensure that.
Like Mathis, Farrell likes the idea of having the two together, and has been pleased with the initial dynamic between the two.
"I think Jeff has got, not only a current reference, but a feel for what pitch in what situation works best for him," Farrell said. "He has an understanding of what the capabilities of a given hitter are, but more importantly, what the strengths are of the guy on the mound to attack those. I think there has been a good rapport there between the two."
Mathis said he isn't too much into watching video, but rather picks up tendencies when he is on the field and remembers them, a paramount ingredient for a catcher. They also pick each other's brains during off-days, and when the two aren't starting is key, according to Mathis.
"We are both in the dugout for nine innings and seeing what guys are doing," Mathis said. "There are many conversations we have about different guys."
Cecil has an upper-'80s fastball, which Farrell said means he doesn't have the same margin of error as some of the flamethrowers around the league. Mathis feels that his velocity doesn't matter, because it's Cecil's entire repertoire that allows him to excel on the mound.
"Just mixing up his pitches as he has been doing, throwing them all for strikes," Mathis said. "Keeping guys off-balance, with him, I think that's a really big part of his game."
Right-hander Drew Carpenter, whom the Blue Jays called up from Triple-A Las Vegas following Monday's game, is someone Farrell is counting on for multiple innings out of the bullpen.
Carpenter has started and pitched in relief at Las Vegas this season, and gives the Blue Jays another arm in a bullpen that been used heavily.
"In an ideal world, for him to come in here in a game in the sixth or seventh inning, and we're down a run, hold the game right there," Farrell said. "That's the role, and we're looking for that guy to support the relievers that we go to when we're tied or we're up a run or two. There has been a void there."
The Blue Jays rotation has been faced with challenges, and the team has had to turn to a group of arms that weren't expected to be part of the staff, such as Cecil, Carlos Villanueva -- who started in the bullpen -- Aaron Laffey and Jesse Chavez.
If Toronto is in need of more starters, it could possibly look to Double-A New Hampshire to find them.
Farrell said right-handers Chad Jenkins and Deck McGuire are on the radar when it comes to the next arms in line on the depth chart.
"They haven't been ruled out, I can tell you that," Farrell said.
McGuire has struggled this season, sporting a 4-9 record and 6.22 ERA, while Jenkins is 4-7 with a 4.91 ERA. The 23-year-old McGuire was ranked Toronto's No. 9 prospect by MLB.com prior to the start of the season.
Chris Toman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.