DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Ricky Romero has had two days for the news of his demotion to sink in, but in many ways, it still doesn't seem real.
Romero's a former All-Star, a former ace and a pitcher who has proven in the past that he can handle the rigors of facing American League lineups. He's also only 28 years old with plenty of innings left in his arm, but none of that seems to matter right now.
Toronto's left-hander suddenly finds himself on the roster for Class A Advanced Dunedin after the Blue Jays optioned him to the Minors earlier this week.
"It was definitely the last thing that I was expecting to hear," Romero said. "I'm disappointed. You never want to get demoted like that, especially coming out of nowhere. I wasn't expecting it.
"It has been an emotional past 48 hours. Whatever it has been, it hasn't been easy. But at the same time, I've said this to myself, I can't come here with a bad attitude. If there's a disability in life, it's that. I'm coming here ready to work and ready to make sure that we get some work done."
General manager Alex Anthopoulos said earlier this week that the Blue Jays simply ran out of time with Romero this spring. The club wanted to implement a series of mechanics changes on the mound, but waited too long to make the adjustments, and with the regular season rapidly approaching, there were not a lot of alternatives.
The news caught Romero completely off guard. He entered camp under the impression that he was guaranteed a spot on the roster as the No. 5 starter. That notion was stated time and time again by the organization until Anthopoulos first raised at least a level of doubt about the issue following a recent Minor League outing.
Even after that start, though, Romero didn't think he was in trouble. He continued focusing on his new mechanics, not the results. Asked whether Romero would make the team just two hours before Toronto announced Romero's demotion, manager John Gibbons even said, "I don't see why not."
While Romero might not agree with the decision, at least part of him is understanding.
"It is what it is. It's one of those things where you just never know in this business," Romero said. "You understand where they're coming from and you have to deal with it. They are the ones that make the decisions, and I could only control what I can control.
"Obviously the job wasn't good enough. I understand that and I'll move on. It definitely hurts, it hurts me to the bottom of my heart that I'm not going to be there on Opening Night with the 24 other guys because this whole time I've been waiting for that moment, to be part of this team with the hype and everything."
Romero said he has received an overwhelming amount of support in the past two days. Current teammates, former teammates, former coaches and even opposing players have reached out to let him know there is a large group of people he can lean on at any given time.
That will surely help, but it doesn't lessen the blow of what is about to come. While the Blue Jays traveled north following their afternoon game against the Phillies, Romero was left behind. He now sets up shop at the club's Minor League complex, where the work on his new mechanics continues.
Romero could have taken 72 hours before reporting, but instead was there ready to work the day after receiving the news. What happens next is up to him and the front office, but there is no question there will be an odd feeling for Romero when the Blue Jays' open their season April 2 against the Indians.
"It hurts, it hurts almost to where I don't want to watch Opening Day," Romero said. "It's just the way it is. I care for those guys and I wish them the best of luck, but at the same time, something inside of your gut, it doesn't feel right. Especially being there the last four years.
"What I've come to realize the past couple of days is the impact I've had on these guys, and the relationship that I've been able to build not only with my teammates, but guys around the league that I've reached out to. College coaches, high school coaches. It just shows me that sometimes things that I don't see, I've been able to see the past couple of days. It has been unbelievable. I'll continue the faith and for now, I'm going to keep working hard."
When Romero's mechanics are finally ready, there's no guarantee a job will be waiting for him. The No. 5 spot has since been handed to left-hander J.A. Happ, and he received a contract extension a day later. It appears as though Romero will have to wait for an injury or someone to falter before he receives a second chance.
If there's one positive to take out of this, it's that Romero has been down this road before. He's heard all the talk over the years about how the Blue Jays shouldn't have selected him over Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft.
The Los Angeles native also knows he was written off by most critics as a failed prospect as recently as 2008 because of the same control issues he is dealing with now. He's proven people wrong once before, and the goal is to prove people wrong again.
"It's not the end of the world. It's not life or death. I'm still in good spirits," Romero said. "I came in yesterday and accepted it. I've gotten up before. I've been doubted my whole career since the first day that I got drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays.
"It was, 'They should have drafted someone else. Why did they draft this guy?' I got to the big leagues, was doubted there. Had a good year, was still doubted. This isn't anything new for me, it's a challenge I'm looking forward to."