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Romero has elbow surgery, injections in knees

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays' season might be over, but their pitching injuries apparently aren't as Ricky Romero recently underwent a pair of minor medical procedures.

The club announced on Tuesday afternoon that Romero had arthroscopic surgery performed on his left elbow earlier this month. The left-handed starter also received platelet-rich plasma injections (PRP) to both of his knees.

The recovery time is expected to take another four weeks, but Romero said it won't impact his offseason throwing program or his ability to be ready for Spring Training.

"Now that I look back at it, I'm glad I did it," Romero said of making the decision to have surgery. "Obviously you never want to have surgery, I take a lot of pride in being a hard worker and being healthy, unfortunately as a pitcher sometimes you have to go through stuff like this and it's going to make you stronger."

The circumstances leading up to the elbow surgery are still a little bit unclear. Romero said he wasn't in pain during the season, but the southpaw did experience more soreness than normal on the outside of his elbow in between starts.

At an end-of-the-year meeting between general manager Alex Anthopoulos, then-manager John Farrell and pitching coach Bruce Walton, the possibility of undergoing an MRI was raised. Romero decided to follow through, and after returning home to Los Angeles for the offseason, he visited surgeon Dr. Lewis Yocum.

The MRI revealed a potential cause for concern, but not enough to definitively know what the problem was. Yocum then advised Romero he could either have exploratory surgery or receive a cortisone injection and hope the soreness would go away on its own. If it didn't, then surgery would eventually become mandatory.

"Dr. Yocum sat me down and said, 'I'm not going to know what you have until I go in there,'" Romero said. "When he went in there, that's when they found out there was a lot of scar tissue and ... some of the stuff that was in there.

"At the end of the day it's definitely going to help. He was really, really happy. He got a chance to go in and check my ligament on the inside of elbow and he said that looked as healthy as he's ever seen it. That's always good news."

Romero's elbow problem could help explain what had otherwise been a baffling 2012 campaign. The 27-year-old was coming off an All-Star season that saw him go 15-11 with a sparking 2.92 ERA in a career high 225 innings of work.

The success didn't carry over to this season. Despite beginning the year 8-1, Romero struggled with his control and posted a 4.34 ERA through 15 starts. The wheels then fell off in late June as he would go on to tie a franchise record with 13 consecutive losses over a span of almost three months.

Late in the year, the Blue Jays did opt to frequently pitch Romero on extra rest, but he continued to start on a regular basis before finishing with a 5.77 ERA in 33 starts. The elbow injury would be an easy excuse to make for the subpar performance, but he tried to distance himself from that on Tuesday.

"It was one of those things where, after you pitch, you're sore," Romero said. "You ask any pitcher in the big leagues, they'll tell you, you probably play less than half of your starts at 100 percent. You're always dealing with some sort of issue.

"My job is to take the ball every fifth day. If I can do it, I'm going to do it, which I did. I don't know if it affected my performance. I don't like to think it did, [and] that's why I grabbed the ball every fifth day."

The PRP injections were made to each knee to help ease the wear and tear from the past season. Romero suffered a minor left knee injury during his final start of the season and MRIs later revealed inflammation in both legs.

The goal of the PRP is to enhance the recovery of quadriceps tendinitis, which played a role in that final start of the year. It's a similar procedure to the one that Jesse Litsch had done to his right shoulder, which ultimately resulted in an infection and potential-career ending injury, but Romero wasn't concerned about the potential risk.

"No, not at all," Romero said. "I went in 100 percent confident that it was going to turn out good, which, so far it has," said Romero.

"It's one of those things where, if you're going to get one day, you might as well get both of them done and get them healthy, both at the same time."

Romero adds one more name to what had already been a lengthy list of Blue Jays' pitching injuries. Fellow starters Brandon Morrow, Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison were all lost to the disabled list in June, while relievers Jason Frasor and Luis Perez joined them later in the year.

The absence of key pitchers put even more pressure on Romero. He didn't admit to pitching hurt, but it's also clear Romero isn't the type of person who is going to voluntarily sit out unless it's absolutely necessary.

That's a decision that could have ended up affecting the results from the mound.

"With the hard work I put in, [you'd have to] chop off my left arm for me not to take the mound," Romero said. "That's the mentality that I take, and if there's anything that you learn from this is to be a little bit more cautious.

"You're able to get options on how to recover quicker during the year, but with everything that piled up this year, I just wanted to keep taking the ball, get out of my own mess. In the end you learn from it and you just move on. Last season happened already and now I'm looking forward to 2013."

Toronto Blue Jays, Ricky Romero