LAKELAND, Fla. -- Ricky Romero's comeback bid hit another road bump Tuesday in an ugly 18-4 Jays loss to a Detroit Tigers split squad.

The Toronto plan was for Romero and Marcus Stroman to combine for nine innings, with none of Toronto's established bullpen members along for the ride. Instead the Tigers treated Romero, Jeremy Jeffress, Stroman and Marcus Walden like batting practice pitchers.

How bad was the Jays' day? Romero had a dismal outing and he was long gone before the Tigers put up nine runs in the fifth inning for a 13-0 lead.

Romero gave up a two-run homer to Austin Jackson in the second after hitting a Tiger to put him on base and yielded another run in an unsightly third inning that featured a triple, four walks and two wild pitches. It could have been far worse but two Tigers were caught stealing in the inning.

The left-hander exited after 2 2/3 innings, giving way to Jeffress. Unofficially Romero threw 57 pitches, 23 for strikes on a sunny 20-degree day with 8,328 on hand at scenic Joker Marchant Stadium.

"We've taken too many steps forward to dwell on this," Romero said philosophically afterwards.

Romero and Jeffress walked eight between them in the first four innings.

Things continued to fall apart when Stroman gave up a walk, four singles and a grand slam homer to Don Kelly in a fifth inning that went from bad to worse. It took Stroman, a first-round pick in the 2012 draft, seven batters to record an out in the inning. A triple then scored another run before fellow minor leaguer Marcus Walden took over.

The onslaught continued as Ian Kinsler slammed a three-homer over the left-field fence.

While Romero suffered a meltdown on the mound, Toronto bats were quiet against Tigers starter Drew Smyly. Melky Cabrera, with a single and double, and Colby Rasmus (walk) were the only Jays to get on base in Smyly's five innings.

Toronto finally got on the board in the sixth inning with four runs against reliever Blaine Hardy. And the scoreboard kept ticking with Detroit adding three in the sixth and two in the eighth.

Randy Boone and Justin Jackson also pitched for Toronto.

Also Tuesday, left-hander Mark Buehrle and right-hander Brandon Morrow faced each other in an intra-squad game at the Jays' minor-league complex.

Morrow threw 3 2/3 innings with four hits, two runs (both earned), two walks and two strikeouts on 63 pitches. Buehrle went 4 1/3 innings with five hits, three runs (two earned), two walks and three strikeouts on 81 pitches.