Fernando Romero Is Healthy, Ready To Compete
He pitched in the Dominican Summer League in 2012 before he came to the States and pitched in the GCL in 2013. That’s where he became a known prospect. In 12 games and 45 innings, Romero went 2-0 with a 1.60 ERA. He walked 13 and struck out 47. Reports began coming out that Romero was sitting in the upper-90s and touching 100.
Early in the 2014 season, he was promoted to Cedar Rapids where he pitched well in three starts. Unfortunately, he was shut down and soon after had Tommy John surgery. He missed the rest of the 2014 season and the entire 2015 season. Not only was he recovering from Tommy John surgery, but he needed knee surgery in 2015 as well.
While he began 2016 in extended spring training, he went back to Cedar Rapids in mid-May. He made five starts and went 4-1 with a 1.93 ERA in 28 innings. He moved up to Ft. Myers where he went 5-2 with a 1.88 ERA in 11 starts. Combined, he worked 90.1 innings on the season.
2017 was his first full season after surgery, and it was a good one. He went 11-9 with a 3.53 ERA for Chattanooga. In 24 games (125 innings), he walked 45 and struck out 120 batters.
Romero noted, “My last six starts, I had an inning limit.”
Over that time, he was limited to five innings, regardless of the pitch count. In fact, he went five innings or less in his final ten starts, and that was the plan. He was shut down with one more start to go in the regular season, and he did not pitch in the Southern League playoffs.
So, how did Romero feel about his first full season after returning from Tommy John surgery?
Romero said, “It was not bad, but it was not good enough. I’ll take it. I’ll take it.”
He has really good stuff, but he is working hard to bring it all together. Romero certainly has more than just an upper-90s fastball. He has the potential to have three plus-plus pitches.
According to Romero, “I try to use all the pitches, but one of my best pitches is the slider, so I’m trying to get them out with that pitch.”
But, fastball command is where it all starts. “That’s all we do. Try to command the fastball and get them out with the slider or change up. Doesn’t matter.”
And he has really worked hard to develop his changeup as a go-to pitch too. “”I’ve been working on development of my changeup. But I’ll be better this year. I’ve been working on it. I’m going to keep it up.”
With Romero’s stuff and his success at AA in 2017, he might just be close to big-league ready. What would it mean for the 23-year-old to get The Call, the call to the big leagues that every baseball player dreams of?
“That would be amazing. That would be good. That would be a great moment for me and my family.”
It’s taken a lot of really hard work to develop and to come back from injuries for Romero. “Oh yeah, man. That’s all we do (work hard). That’s what we do.”
It won’t surprise you to hear what Romero’s primary goal is for 2018.
“Really, really it is to be in the major leagues. But we’ve got a little more to do.”
Romero is already in Ft. Myers preparing for the 2018 season. When big league camp opens next month, he will be there for the second time. Last year, he was just trying to catch his bearings and make an impression. He did.
When Romero was sent down to minor league camp last spring, manager Paul Molitor told Twins Daily that he loved Romero’s potential. In fact, he was so intrigued by his stuff that he may have wanted to see Romero in 2017 in a different role. “Very confident kid, who we still think has the potential as a starter. I can see him as a reliever, but I think that people envision him being a very high-end starter, so we're going to stick with that here in the short-term and try to get him stretched out,” He continued, "I asked because I see the power, and you can see how he could be a late-inning game guy, but they say he's got sustainability in terms of being able to carry that kind of stuff throughout the course of a game. He'll be able to get more work and more innings and more experience. I can see down the line with innings and his injury past that you could protect his workload sometime during the season.”
He got the work in during the 2017 season. He worked in more situations than had he been used as a reliever. And while he is likely to remain a starter at least to start the season, it is also now feasible to see him called up to the Twins to fill a need in the bullpen. And with his fastball/slider combo, he could dominate in that role too.
So what does Romero think of that idea? Is he OK with the idea of moving to the bullpen? “I am, man. I’ve got no problem at all with it. I’ll do it. If I can be a closer, I’m going to be. It doesn’t matter, just trying to help the team always. Anything you’ve got the chance.”
Most important for the Twins brass to consider, what is best for the long-term future of Fernando Romero? That is most likely what is best for the long-term future of the Twins as well.
He’s been able to go through a more normal offseason this year. He’s been able to rest his arm. He’s been able to play a lot of another game that he loves. “I love to play pool. Oh yeah, that’s what I do. Most of the time, that’s all I do, play pool.”
2018 will be Romero’s second year back from Tommy John. Based on the 25% rule (some ‘experts’ believe that if a pitcher works more than 25% more innings than the previous season, he may be more susceptible to injury), Romero could work as many as 140 innings in 2018. Who knows, maybe several of them will be for the Minnesota Twins, and maybe out of the bullpen.
For that to happen, he’ll need to keep working, keep developing and stay healthy. Fair to say, as spring training fast approaches, Romero is ready.
“I’m feeling healthy. I’m ready to compete. I’m feeling good.”
Chris Blessing from Baseball HQ watched Romero pitch several times. Here is a report he submitted on Romero:
Fernando Romero had a mostly up 2017 season, two years removed from TJS. The command dropped some as the changeup became the main development focus for the shorter RHP. FB sat 95-98 regularly, holding velocity throughout his starts. The pitch features late arm-side bore with natural downward plane. When he misses location, can still miss bats up. Slider is 11-5 slurve with sold depth and two-plane break. Potential out pitch at big league level. Romero has a feel for changeup; lags in development. Solid fading action and good arm speed. Flattens out with elevation. Inconsistent but getting better. Likely a call up at some point this season. Unless he works out the command issues quickly, probably not a good bet contributing much as a starter. Stuff will play up in pen. Long term, like him as a starter with the pen as a nice fallback option.
- Cory Engelhardt, Oldgoat_MN, dbminn and 2 others like this