ST. LOUIS – Left-handed reliever J.C. Romero had plenty of reasons to be excited when he appeared at the Cardinals’ Winter Warm-Up charity event Sunday morning.
In addition to making his first public appearance since he signed a one-year deal to join the Cardinals bullpen, Romero spoke at length for the first time since the announcement that his PED lawsuit had been settled.
That news comes almost three years after Romero filed suit against the makers and distributors of a supplement he claimed caused his 2008 positive drug test. That positive resulted in a 50-game suspension, which Romero served to start the 2009 season.
“My job was to fight to the end and clear my name, and I think that for me that was the most important thing,” Romero said. “And I achieved that, and I’m happy with it. . . . Going through that trial for three years, if you were walking in my shoes, that’s not easy to do because you have to go to every stadium and everybody is going to judge you and point fingers at you, even young kids. And as a role model, it hurts.
“If you don’t care about the game or about people, then it wouldn’t matter to you but for me, the way that I believe and the way I live my life and my integrity and my reputation and my testimony as a Christian, that means a lot to me. It was a heavy weight over my shoulders the last three years.”
Romero calls himself, “cleared”, because according to a report in the New York Daily News, the results of the test showed that the supplement was indeed tainted. But because the banned substance was found in his system – regardless of how it got there or whether he knew about it or not – Romero still had to serve a 50-game suspension to start the 2009 season.
Romero tested positive for the banned substance androstenedione in August 2008 while pitching for the Philadelphia Phillies. He was notified of the result shortly before the start of the World Series, when he was the winning pitcher in two games of the Phillies’ five-game victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.
The left-hander requested an arbitration hearing and the Players Association sent the product that he was using, 6-OXO Extreme, to a lab to be tested.
“This is not about a settlement with JC getting money or whatever it was,” Romero said. “What I wanted to accomplish was I believe in the MLB system completely. I’m happy that Mr. Bud Selig and everything they are doing with the game, but at that particular time when I got suspended, I think there were some gray areas in the system that I didn’t agree with.
“They have to do their job and I respect their decision, but I have to protect myself, too, and I knew that my case wasn’t like everybody else’s. I didn’t go in an alley and stick a needle in my body or anything like that. I did what everybody else in the United States would do and that’s go to the vitamin place and get your vitamins.
“But at the same time, I think I created a lot awareness for a lot of the young guys and current major league baseball players that didn’t know that this could happen to them.”
Romero has a 4.07 ERA in 13 big-league seasons but has held left-handed batters to just a .216 batting average and .289 slugging percentage. He will likely serve as more of a left-handed specialist out of the bullpen while Marc Rzepczynski could face more right-handed hitters.
And after almost joining the Cardinals last winter, Romero is excited to have made it official this time around.
“At one point, I really thought everything was almost done,” Romero said of joining the Cardinals after the 2010 season. “It was part of the business, it didn’t happen and sometimes when you look back you regret certain things, and when I was sitting in front of my TV and they were winning a championship, I was like, ‘Wow’. That’s when it really hit home, but I’m looking forward to having a really good season and I know the guys are excited too.
“I’m excited to be here and be part of this special team. I feel blessed about the opportunity. . . . I’m glad the Cardinals took a chance eon me and I know they won’t regret it.”