Ron Romanick's night to remember, when he would ease the growing fears of Angel management and exorcise this unwanted knack of allowing runs, was postponed Monday evening, perhaps indefinitely.
In its place was another night to forget, something Romanick, now 5-8 with an earned-run average of 5.50, has had to practice with alarming frequency this season.
This time it was a 5-3 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers, who only occupy last place in the American League East, that left Romanick puzzled, Angel General Manager Mike Port trigger-happy and Manager Gene Mauch at a loss for words.
"I'll answer that question only one time," Mauch said when asked to comment on Romanick's standing, "this is a very, very serious situation. Very serious. I expected nothing but good things to happen tonight and they didn't. Now I need some time to think about it."
A night's sleep may be about all the time Mauch will receive. Midway through Monday night's game, Port said he would meet with Mauch and pitching coach Marcel Lachemann to discuss Romanick's future with the Angels.
Sure enough, Port hurried down to the Angel clubhouse after the loss and held a short closed-door session. A more comprehensive meeting most likely will take place today.
In the past, Port has chosen his words carefully when assessing a player's situation, as if he would get mouth washed out with soap by Jackie Autry if he said something wrong. Not so Monday. Port left little to the imagination when describing Romanick's recent performances.
"Candidly, tonight's outing was terrible," Port said. "You can't keep coming from five runs back. He's a location type of guy. Sometimes, he showed here and there when his location is right, he'd get results. But you can't keep making mistakes that get you five runs down and look at the other guys and say, 'OK, guys, see if you can come back from that.' We've got to have a chance coming out of the gate. If this had been earlier in the scheme of things, maybe more patience would be warranted, but we are far beyond the beginning of this thing.
"My feeling right now, is how many outings constitute a chance?" Port said. "For the sake of the other guys on the club, and the fans and what we're trying to do bottom line, how many outings constitute a chance? We've tried chances at home, we've tried chances on the road, we've tried chances against different clubs, we've tried chances against a club he has a very good lifetime record against and, appreciating that he's trying his darndest, but now we're at a point of bottom-line results."
Asked if Romanick had run out of opportunities to convince him otherwise, Port said: "In my mind, unless somebody comes up with something to change my perception, I'd say, candidly, yes."
Romanick lasted just 4 innings against the Brewers on Monday night. During his brief stay, an Anaheim Stadium crowd of 22,449 watched the usually light-hitting Brewers score a run in the second after three consecutive singles, and four more runs in the third, courtesy of two singles, one double and two walks. A bloop double in the fifth produced Lachemann from the dugout, and that was the end of Romanick.
Romanick's departure meant the arrival of reliever Gary Lucas, who pitched 4 innings, allowed just one hit and lowered his ERA to 1.93. Also, Lucas showed his toughness. When a line drive hit him flush in the right shin, Lucas got up and was able to continue pitching.
"Outstanding, outstanding," Mauch said of Lucas.
Romanick? Mauch cut off more questions.
With the loss, Romanick is 2-3 during his last six starts. He hasn't made it to the sixth inning in four of those games and has only two complete games in his last 31 starts. And after winning three of his first four starts this year, Romanick has gone 2-7, which, with the Angels holding a 2 1/2-game lead over the Texas Rangers in the AL West, has sent management looking for a replacement.
"We have to get ourselves a solid five-man rotation," Port said. "Right now, we have 4."
Throughout the season, Romanick has maintained that he'll overcome his difficulties, that talks of trades and demotions haven't affected him. His stance didn't change after Monday's loss, the Angels' fourth in five games.
"I've tried everything and I keep telling myself it's going to turn because I always thrived on the fact that I can make a pitch in a crucial situation," he said. "It seems this year that when I make the pitch, they foul it off, or foul two of them off or three of them off and then the guy makes a play on me and gets a hit.
"This is a first-place ballclub, and I'm trying to contribute and I belong here and I've always felt I belonged here," he said. "Whether I'm staying here or whatever assessment is being made on me, doesn't deter what I'm trying to do. I just want to be a part of it. If I'm not, I'll be successful somewhere else."
Said Lachemann: "The guy's won 30 games (actually 31) in the big leagues. You can't be at a dead end. It's up to me to find something."