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Twins Daily Roundtable: Romero's Innings

Twins Daily Roundtable is a new weekly series. As part of this series, a question will be posed to the site’s writers and they will respond in 200 words or less (Some writers don’t like to stick to this limit). This will give readers an opportunity to see multiple points of view and then add their own point of view in the comments section.

Baseball has certainly changed over the years. Gone are the days of starting pitchers throwing 220+ innings on a regular basis. In fact during the 2017 season, only 15 MLB pitchers tossed 200 inning or more. Go back 20 years and there were 40 pitchers during the 1997 season to throw 200 innings or more.

Young pitchers like Fernando Romero are another story. No one is expecting Romero to throw 200 innings (at least not yet). In his first big league season, there are questions about how much use the Twins will be able to get out of their rising star.

This week’s roundtable discussion question is: “Should Fernando Romero be on an innings limit, and if so, what should it be? If not, why not?”
Image courtesy of Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Seth Stohs
In my opinion, along with Jose Berrios, Fernando Romero should be a cornerstone of the Minnesota starting rotation for years to come. So while the concept of limiting innings can be disputed (and has been), my biggest concern is doing what is best for Romero and his future. Therefore, I would be in support of an innings limit for the hard-throwing right-hander.

In 2016, his first season back from Tommy John, he threw 90 1/3 innings between Cedar Rapids and Fort Myers. You can likely add another 20 to 25 innings that he threw in extended spring training before joining the Kernels in mid-May. He spent the 2017 season in Double-A Chattanooga where he threw 125 innings. Late in the season, he was limited to five innings per start. He came up with a 'dead arm' and was skipped in the final start of the season.

If you subscribe to the theory that a 20% increase in workload is where he should be limited, that would be 150 innings. Romero is currently at 62 1/3 innings combined between the Red Wings and Twins. So, maybe a creative DL stint around the All-Star break might be wise. Maybe limiting him to five innings late in the season or piggybacking him with another starter might make sense.

Nick Nelson
Romero's long-term health should be the team's primary concern, so at some point a limit almost has to come into play. I think somewhere in the 150-175 range would be reasonable after he logged 125 in 2017.

One strategy that deserves consideration is giving Romero some time off in the middle of the summer (or maybe a few weeks in the bullpen), thus enabling him to go deeper into the season. But that really only becomes a factor if the team gets on a run pretty quickly here and offers signs that September games will actually matter.

John Bonnes
Yes, he should be. He should not go over 155 innings and shouldn’t make a start once he gets to 150 innings. Romero is at 62 innings so far this year (21 in AAA, 41 in MLB) which leaves him a maximum of 93 innings. Throughout his career, he’s averaged about 5.1 IP per start, so that gets him about 17 starts. That means he would be shut down mid September.

The tougher question is, short of just shelving him late in the season, can the Twins figure out a way to have him available in case those September (or October?) games mean something?

Maybe someone else on the roundtable will have a better idea, but to me the answer is “No.” Screwing around with his work, whether that means skipping starts, moving him to the bullpen, or demoting him to AAA for shorter starts, seems risky considering the long-term upside he represents. Plus, given the Twin are on the outskirts of the division race right now, one could argue these games are far more likely to be valuable than those in September.

So stay the course with Romero. It’s certainly paid off so far.
Tom Froemming
Yes, I do think the Twins should be concerned about Romero's workload, but I don't think he needs an overly restrictive innings limit. I don't think I'd want him throwing more than 180 innings, which is a lot these days anyway. Romero logged 125 innings last season, but really sputtered to the finish line.

I think it'd be a good idea to skip either Romero's last start heading into the All-Star break or first start after the break. I also think the team should use extreme caution if even the smallest issue should come up. With a DL stint being only 10 days now, you can slide him on there and basically use that to skip a start. I'm sure they'll find ways to get creative if they feel he needs some extra rest.

Other than that, let him roll. Maybe he gets hurt, maybe he doesn't, but as long as they're not asking him to throw 120+ pitches or ignoring signs of fatigue, such as a drop in velocity, I think they're doing what's best for him.

Cody Christie
When considering this question, my first thought was to compare Romero to Berrios because those have been the two “big name” pitching prospects to debut over the last couple of years. The more I thought about it, the more I realized this might be a fool’s errand.

These are two different pitchers with two different body types and two different injury histories. Both players are listed at 6-feet tall but Romero has at least 30 pounds more on his frame. Romero has also undergone Tommy John surgery and that plays into the equation as well.

Romero’s innings will most certainly be limited at some point this season. However, the new front office has been utilizing tracking data to analyze pitchers for fatigue. I think it will become clear in the second half as to what the front office plans to do. Minnesota isn’t out of the race but Cleveland could pull away.

Minnesota needs to be smart with Romero because he can’t be on pace for over 250 innings like Max Scherzer.

Jeremy Nygaard
It's always important for an organization to be cognizant of a pitcher's workload. So, simply put, the answer is wrong if you think he shouldn't be on some sort of limit. But does it have to revolve around innings?

Romero threw 90.1 innings in 2016. He increased that total to 125 in 2017. That might be a little misleading, though, because in his recovery from Tommy John surgery, Romero started the 2016 season with seven weeks in extended spring training. Upon closer look, he threw 1245 pitches in those 90.1 innings in 2016 and threw 1991 pitches in those 125 innings in 2017. His innings increased 38%, but his pitches increased almost 60%. So despite not knowing what his actual workloads were, the Twins let Romero throw a significantly higher number of pitches in 2017. If you wanted him to make 32 starts and not increase the number of pitches he'd throw, he'd still be able to throw over 60 pitches a game.

Let's look at how that relates to another young pitcher in the organization, Jose Berrios. Berrios went from 140 inning in 2014 to 166.1 innings to 169.2 innings to 185.1 innings in 2017. Pitch-wise he went from 1450 to 2509 to 2735 to 2942.

For both players, as they've increased in level (and facing better hitters), their pitches per inning has increased, but seem to stabilize just shy of 16 pitches per inning.

Looking at the jump Berrios took in pitches (not innings) from 2015 to 2017, it was an increase of 1285 pitches. I used the increase of two years because it was basically when he went from being limited to being full-go.

If you use that same jump for Romero and divide that number of pitches (1245+1285) by the average pitches per inning (15.74), that puts Romero at about 161 innings before you'd start to get cautious. Of course, that doesn't count the aforementioned work he did in extended spring training. I'd approximate that they could add another 10-15 innings before he hits a hard limit of around 175 innings.

At this point in time - around a third of the season - Romero has thrown only 57.1 innings, which has him on a pace to get around 170 innings without skipping any starts. But his pitch total (994) is over 100 pitches over the normal usage pace. In a season where Romero's health is likely to be more important that a few games in September, I'd err on the side of caution if his pitch total continues to trend higher. Maybe we throw innings out completely and don't let him start any more games after he's thrown his 2500th pitch of the year. That's simple enough, right?

Ted Schwerzler
With regard to Romero and limiting innings this season, I think a good deal of what the Twins should do will be dictated to them by how the rest of the summer plays out. Right now they're a talented team that's severely underperforming. While Cleveland hasn't run away and hid, they are capable of doing that at any point. Should things stay close, the Twins will need to get creative and could skip a few turns for Romero to stretch him out further.

If they fall out of it however, I'd have no problem with shutting him down for September. He threw 125 innings a season ago, and 20% seems to be a healthy increase for this year. If he can get up around 150 innings and is still feeling good, then maybe it becomes more of a touch and feel type of thing. At this point, I don't think much of a rigid plan should be put in place.

SD Buhr
Easy. You add 30 to Fernando Romero’s 125 innings pitched in 2017 and you put a limit of 155 innings this year. That keeps you in compliance with “the Verducci Effect,” which argues that pitchers 25 and under face increased risk of elbow breakdown a year after they increase their workload by 30 or more innings above the previous year.

So, if we don’t want Romero breaking down in 2019, we don’t let him pitch more than 155 innings in 2018. The math is easy. But PLEASE tell me that the past 20 years have brought more science to the issue than can be applied using Tom Verducci’s second grade math.

Last I knew, most teams were using biomechanics compression sleeves to measure pitching arm fatigue on an individual basis. Maybe there’s something newer. Certainly, there is some way to evaluate when a pitcher is entering risky territory that applies a more scientific approach than adding 125 and 30.

So, my answer is, yes, I would limit Romero’s workload this year. But without knowing what the Twins are using to measure his specific level of arm/elbow fatigue, I have no way of knowing where to place that limit.

Andrew Thares
Yes, I believe Fernando Romero should be on an innings (well, workload) limit as he has never pitched more than the 125 innings he did last season. The main thing the Twins need out of Romero is his long-term health after this season.

However, I don’t think the Twins should take the same approach that the Nationals did with Stephen Strasburg a few years back where they rode him all season then shut him down once he hit 160 IP even though they were in the playoff race.

However, as things stand, the Twins might not have to do a lot to limit Romero’s innings. He has only thrown 62 1/3 innings so far this year between AAA and MLB. Say the Twins choose to keep him around 160 total innings, this gives Romero roughly 100 innings to work with.

So far Romero is averaging just over 5 innings per start. If he keeps that pace it will give him another 17-20 starts with which to work with 100 games left in the season. So in reality, all the Twins might have to do is skip a couple of starts here or there for the rest of the season and he should keep his innings low enough for a potential Twins postseason run.

Steve Lein
While I was happily wrong in my preseason forecast on how Fernando Romero might be used when predicting players to make their MLB debut this season, the concerns brought up about how many innings he might be able to pitch are still valid.

Whether you believe innings limits are a thing or not, Romero just hasn’t pitched much as a professional. His 365 and change career innings pales in comparison to someone like Jose Berrios, who pitched nearly 600 innings in the minors alone, along with a career high of 185. Romero got up to 125 before he was shut down last season.

Add in that Berrios is only half of a year older than Romero, and all signs point to Romero being cut off at some point in 2018. I do think he should be on an innings limit due to those reasons and his health history, but where that number should fall I’ll only take a stab at:

I’ll predict that if Romero remains healthy and productive going forward, as soon as he hits around that 125 number from last year, he’s going to get shifted into the bullpen and remain there the rest of the season. Let’s call it a compromise on that preseason prediction.

If you missed any of the previous roundtable discussions, here are the links:
Romero’s Rotation Spot
Top Prospect Timelines
Minnesota’s All-Star Selection
Extension Candidates

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AFAIK there is no reliable data indicating some specific increase in innings year to year leads to injury. “The Verducci Effect” is sloppy science at best. There is no reason to set an innings limit today. If at some point he is fatigued, rest him. Let Romero, the pitching coach, and the medical staff determine that, if/when necessary.

Pitchers are at risk for injury. All of them, every time they pitch. Pitch them when they’re healthy. They’re of no use if they can’t pitch, and resting him in 2018 does little or nothing to help 2019, IMO.
    • Brock Beauchamp, Parker Hageman, jorgenswest and 7 others like this

Excellent, and you seem to have a consensus that there should be some limitation.


No matter how you decided the innings/pitches question, it is likely he should be shut down at some point later in the season.Considering that Romero is one of their best four pitchers, the bigger question is what to do if the Twins are in the hunt for the playoffs?How do they get him available come October?


Kelly Vance
Jun 13 2018 10:55 AM

I think this problem, if you want to cal it that, takes care of itself when Erv and May and Pineda are ready. I could see putting Romero in the bullpen for high leverage appearances, and give Pressley a break. That keeps Romero in the arsenal and saves his arm.  But I don't believe in innings limits per se. I think his arm will tell him when its tired. Its like all those people that say drink 8 glasses of water a day. Now doctors are saying drink when you are thirsty. Your body will tell you things if you care to listen.


But I agree that he is a valuable future SP and maybe a staff ace. Berrios and Romero look like they will be legit starters for a long time, so he is an asset to be valued and not abused.


Now, can someone tell Molly that we have other relievers besides Pressley and Hildy and Duke?

The Veducci effect is bunk. Awful bunk, which has been shown to be bunk when you actually look at data. Seriously, bunk.
    • Thrylos, gil4, Dantes929 and 5 others like this


The Veducci effect is bunk. Awful bunk, which has been shown to be bunk when you actually look at data. Seriously, bunk.



Indeed.Verlander, Lester, and Pedro Martinez (who had a 50+ inning increase from age 22 to age 23 season) would agree.

    • Vanimal46 likes this

I think that the answer depends on how the Twins and Romero are doing.If the Twins are competing for the division and he is one of your top 5 pitchers and healthy, there is no way you shut him down. 


At some point, when you compete you have to play for today and put the 5 best starters and 25 best players on the team.If you always play for tomorrow, it will never come.

    • USAFChief, Vanimal46, howieramone2 and 2 others like this

I thought this 20% rule was debunked. Like the bogus full moon means a crazy night - Correlation ≠ Causation. What was the choice to get up to 90 innings post surgery? Why was that the magic number? 


Lets think about Trevor May, he was hurt in Spring Training. Should pitchers not pitch in spring training anymore because that's when his injury took place? 


There are warm-up pitches, bullpen sessions and long toss. How do you add them to the equation? Having an innings limit is arbitrary.  

    • Mike Sixel, Dantes929, 70charger and 3 others like this

I too am skeptical of any hard/precautionary limits.


But if you're going to do it, a good example of innings limitations is Lance McCullers in 2015. He started the season with 6 starts in AA, and was kept on modest inning/pitch limits and given ample rest between starts. Then he moved to MLB in mid-May and started regularly the rest of the way, except for a 3-week optional assignment back to AA at the beginning of August, during which time he only made 1 token appearance but otherwise rested. Came back to finish the MLB season fairly strong, and was available to start in the postseason (although the Astros were bounced in the first round, after only one McCullers start).


Ultimately, McCullers went from 97 innings in 2014, to 164 in 2015 plus the potential for more in the postseason.

    • USAFChief, gil4 and 70charger like this


Now, can someone tell Molly that we have other relievers besides Pressley and Hildy and Duke?

He knows about Reed.

    • gil4 and Platoon like this


The Veducci effect is bunk. Awful bunk, which has been shown to be bunk when you actually look at data. Seriously, bunk.

Agreed. And that's sort of the point I was trying to make in my response to the question within the article.


What Verducci DID do with his article is get people thinking about paying closer attention to pitchers' health. Given the money the best of them (and even a lot who aren't close to being among the best), one would think owners wouldn't have needed a sportswriter to get them to focus on that, but whatever. 


Verducci applied simple math. But there IS science that can be applied. Inexact science, to be sure, but progress is being made and the Twins should apply what science there is available to the Romero question.

    • Mike Sixel likes this

The Veducci effect is a religion, not science.

People belief it on faith because they have heard it so many times and journalists write about it as fact. (How many above wrote about it?)

    • Mike Sixel, Vanimal46 and D.C Twins like this
You ride out Romero as long as you can this year. No innings limit unless he shows fatigue later on. He's a fairly young guy with a great arm. Time to take off the training wheels.
    • Mike Sixel, Dantes929, howieramone2 and 1 other like this
LA VIkes Fan
Jun 13 2018 12:12 PM

I think there's an easy answer. Put him on the DL around the AS break with a "tired arm/shoulder inflammation/hangnail/flu like symptoms" for 10-15 days. Do it about the same time that Santana comes back. Romero misses 2-3 starts and still winds up under 160 innings. I live in LA and I watch the Dodgers manipulate the DL to achieve these kinds of goals all the time. It may rub people the wrong way but it's a tool we could use. 

This year the Twins remarkably seem to have an excess of SP, assuming Santana and maybe May comes back. And a few stashed in Rocherster. So why not a 6 man rotation? There really doesn't seem a serious falloff for any of them currently. While they are all likely 3's in a really good rotation, there's worse things that can happen. This just seems like a staff where a 6 man rotation would work for several reason, one of them Romeros inning count.
A jaded person might speculate that journalists write about the Verducci effect as fact because a journalist came up with it. :)
    • Mike Sixel and Tomj14 like this
The problem with a 6 man rotation, of course, is that when you add a 6th starter, that roster spot comes from elsewhere. Either you have an even more overworked bullpen or a shorter bench.
    • ashbury and USAFChief like this
Tom Froemming
Jun 13 2018 12:19 PM

This is a fun question because it's really hard to answer. Even though I was on the higher side with my number, I reserve the right to completely lose my mind if his velocity drops or he starts to get roughed up on a consistent basis.


I was really freaked out about Romero last September. I wrote an article in which I said this:


What would I do? Well, I've already joked around here a few times that I'd freeze Romero in carbonite a la Han Solo and have him remain in that state until the spring.

    • Dantes929 likes this


This is a fun question because it's really hard to answer. Even though I was on the higher side with my number, I reserve the right to completely lose my mind if his velocity drops or he starts to get roughed up on a consistent basis.


I was really freaked out about Romero last September. I wrote an article in which I said this:


What would I do? Well, I've already joked around here a few times that I'd freeze Romero in carbonite a la Han Solo and have him remain in that state until the spring.

Having him on a pitch or inning limit is NOT the same as watching for Fatigue (mental or physical)

I don't think anybody on here thinks it is a good idea for him to pitch though fatigue.

    • Mike Sixel and Dantes929 like this
Jun 13 2018 12:45 PM

I think you just shut him down once he starts getting fatigued early and it alters his mechanics. 


That is assuming plenty of people inside and outside of the dugout are keeping a close eye on his mechanics.

    • Mike Sixel, Dantes929, 70charger and 1 other like this

I like Jeremy Nygaard's analysis best - go with a pitch limit, not a innings limit, assuming an average of 16 pitches per inning. 


Next, re-emphasize getting ahead early, get that first strike to get ahead in counts. That should help reduce pitches per inning. This is the time in Romero's career when he finds out what he can do with his heater and his slider, and keep working on the change, which could save him some pitches later in games and later in the season. 


Finally, try to get him to add and subtract with his fastball. He already does that some, but the more variability he achieves, the more he screws up a hitter's timing.



Captain Obvious

I agree with Nygard in that around 2500 pitches Romero should be closely watched. Maybe a 10 DL stint or maybe 4 or 5 starts in a row with an 80 pitch limit so his arm can have a breather, but if he has 190 innings going into the World Series....i think he can handle one more start.
Jun 13 2018 12:55 PM

Decisions like this are a blend of art and science. My momma always said, "We'll cross that bridge when we get to it." So I think you make a general plan and adapt as the circumstances call for it and as things play out. 


Odorizzi shows us that not every inning is equal, since he's been averaging 18.6 pitches per inning, so I like Jeremy's approach of looking at pitches thrown. And 2400-2500 seems about right for the year.


That leaves Romero in the neighborhood of 1250 pitches remaining. If you ballpark 90 pitches per start, that's around 14 more starts. So keep that in mind and see how things play out over the next month or so. Considerations in that are: 


  • Staying on the current 5-man rotation with no rainouts gives Romero five starts -- June 22 and 28 and July 3, 8 and 13 -- before the all-star break.
  • How's Santana doing? None of the current guys has really pitched himself out of the rotation. If Santana or May gets to the point of being ready, it only takes three starts by one of them (in a six-man rotation) to save a start before the break. Or two starts and a rainout, etc.
  • If that doesn't happen, move Romero to the back of the rotation coming out of the break, which essentially is the same as skipping a start.
  • If all five current guys are still healthy and pitching effectively when (if) Santana (or May) are ready, go ahead and go to a six-man rotation for a few times through the rotation and see how things go.
  • By that time, you also have a pretty good sense of whether you're buyers or sellers. If sellers, and everyone is healthy, Lynn's going to be a trade candidate.
  • And if sellers, that also means that it's pretty easy to shut down Romero when it seems appropriate based on fatigue and effectiveness.

In a best case scenario (the Twins are still in it and guys are healthy), I think Romero would be a good candidate for the bullpenning approach. I'd think about pairing him with Odorizzi, since Odorizzi seems to particularly struggle with the third time through the order. But to keep Romero on a regular preparation pattern, consider starting him and letting him go two innings. Often, that would bring Odorizzi into the game at the bottom of the order, so when he starts his third time through, he's starting with the 7, 8 or 9 hitter. Similarly, two innings of Romero and five of Odorizzi gets us to the eighth inning and very close to the FRE, so it (in theory) also provides a lighter day for the bullpen. 

The problem with a 6 man rotation, of course, is that when you add a 6th starter, that roster spot comes from elsewhere. Either you have an even more overworked bullpen or a shorter bench.

That's a good point. I admit I had not considered that aspect. Duh! The easiest solution is to have Pressly pitch an extra game or two during the week. For Lords sake, I noticed there are weeks when he only appears in 5 or 6 games. :).
    • gil4, SD Buhr and Tomj14 like this

The other problem with the 6-man rotation is that we all don't get to watch Berrios as much.

    • Vanimal46 likes this

The other problem with the 6-man rotation is that we all don't get to watch Berrios as much.

Which is the biggest problem. Less Berrios starts makes Van a sad boy.
    • D.C Twins likes this

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