FORT MYERS, FLA. – Fernando Romero isn’t pitching like someone who can get outs in the ninth inning; he looks more like someone who needs more seasoning in the minors.
The 24-year-old righthander imploded for the second consecutive outing as the Twins lost to Pittsburgh 6-5 at Hammond Stadium on Wednesday. The Twins, thanks to a two-run homer by Jonathan Schoop, eased out to a 5-0 lead. But Romero, handed the ball for the eighth inning, faltered.
He lasted just two-thirds of an inning, giving up four runs on three hits and two walks and nearly hitting a batter. He gave up four earned runs and walked three Sunday in Dunedin against the Blue Jays, making it consecutive bad outings. He’s been a starter for the majority of his career — only 18 of his 85 minor league games were in relief — so manager Rocco Baldelli was asked about Romero getting used to coming out of the bullpen.
“It’s a different mind-set, it’s a different preparation, it’s a different everything,” Baldelli said. “I’ve never seen a young pitcher bounce back and forth in these situations and not have to adjust in some way.”
Righthander Michael Pineda threw five scoreless innings Wednesday, lowering his ERA in exhibition games to 3.52. Schoop blasted his home run in the sixth inning while going 3-for-3 to lift his average to .306. C.J. Cron was 2-for-3 with two runs scored and is batting .361.
After closing the deficit to 5-4 against Romero, the Pirates scored twice in the ninth against Mike Morin to pull out the win.