CLEVELAND — Saturday's game was well out of reach when Angels reliever J.C. Romero walked the first two batters in the eighth inning, prompting Manager Mike Scioscia to practically sprint to the mound.
Scioscia didn't issue Romero his walking papers. But he was close.
"He said it's time to go," Romero said. "You can only take so much. If you're in the big leagues, you're supposed to execute day in and day out. If you don't do that, it's time to find another profession."
Romero did not walk another batter, but he gave up a run-scoring single to Jhonny Peralta, an RBI double to Travis Hafner and a sacrifice fly to Victor Martinez before getting out of the inning.
That left Romero with a 1-2 record and 8.69 earned-run average in 24 games and a walk-to-strikeout ratio (17 walks, 16 strikeouts) he described as "horrible."
Romero, acquired from Minnesota last winter, has given up 19 earned runs and 27 hits in 19 2/3 innings, not the kind of performance the Angels expected from a left-hander who got out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in an opening-day win in Seattle.
"I can't even explain it -- I'm still trying to figure myself out," said Romero, 29, who had a career 4.35 ERA in five big league seasons. "I'm so stunned about it that there's nothing left to do but laugh.
"It's very embarrassing, but this is the third month of the season. I have four months to turn it around. I'm not used to this, especially when you get traded and there are high expectations. But I still have a positive frame of mind. I know I'm going to snap out of it."
Romero said he's physically sound, and he has good velocity and movement on his pitches. But he's constantly behind in counts and is "pulling off" in his delivery, causing him to miss away to right-handers and inside to left-handers.
"He has great stuff, and he has to understand to trust it," Scioscia said. "He's beating himself up trying to figure stuff out, but when push comes to shove, you have to hit your spots. It looked like he was trying to stay away from contact. I want him to pitch aggressively."
Romero will meet today with Scioscia in an effort to "get to the bottom of this," Romero said. "Mike was a great catcher. I want to use his knowledge."
The reliever seemed confident he would turn things around.
"I'm not going to panic -- I'll be all right," Romero said. "I know when all is said and done in September, we're all going to be laughing."
When Darin Erstad returns from an ankle injury -- he could be back from a minor league rehabilitation assignment as soon as Friday -- it will be as a center fielder, not a first baseman.
There was speculation before Erstad got hurt in early May that he would move to the infield to replace the struggling Casey Kotchman, but Scioscia said Erstad, a Gold Glove winner at both positions, will remain in center, though not necessarily on a full-time basis.
"We're going to have to monitor and pace him a little bit, but his defensive presence in center field will be important," Scioscia said. "We have depth at first base with Kendry [Morales] and Dallas [McPherson] able to go over there. We don't have as much depth in center."