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Blue Jays tab Ricky Romero to start season opener at home against the Twins

Ricky Romero throws a pitch during baseball spring training in Dunedin, FL, on Feb. 16, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Left-hander Ricky Romero will be the Blue Jays opening day starter just two seasons after barely making Toronto’s roster.

Manager John Farrell made the announcement Friday. Romero was No. 2 in the rotation last season behind Shaun Marcum, who has been traded to Milwaukee.

“It means everything,” Romero said of starting against the Twins at home on April 1. “It means a lot. To be able to do what I’ve accomplished in the first two years of my career with Toronto has been amazing. I told Farrell that I was about as excited as I was when I was called in (to his office) and told that I’d made the team.”

In his most recent outing, Romero pitched four shutout innings, allowing one hit, striking out six and walking two against Pittsburgh on Sunday.

The 26-year-old Romero didn’t make the Blue Jays big league roster until after his final 2009 spring start, when he was in a three-way competition for the fifth spot. He was 13-9 with a 4.30 earned-run average as a rookie and 14-9, 2.73 last season.

He was drafted sixth overall in 2005, one spot ahead of Colorado shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. While Tulowitzki made it to the majors in 2006 and has batted .290 with 92 home runs and 338 RBIs, Romero showed little in the Class-A and Double-A, compiling a 16-21 record in 2005-08.

Romero said he took motivation from an article in Sports Illustrated about the 2005 draft class in which former Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi said the team “had made the wrong decision” in picking Romero instead of Tulowitzki.

“Being considered a bust pretty much, I think that helped me grow,” Romero said. “Now I look back at those years of struggling and I thank God every day for it because it made me stronger, mentally and physically, and it’s helped me to get to where I’m at today.”

Farrell said the Blue Jays believe Romero is ready to be the team’s ace.

“We have that confidence in him that he can match up with whoever is put out there by any other club,” Farrell said.

Being the No. 1 starter “is just another challenge,” Romero said. “… Whoever you’ve got to face that night, you’ve got to go out there and beat ’em.”