Fernando Romero was called up Thursday to provide a fresh arm to the Twins bullpen. The righthander entered the game in the eighth inning with a nine-run lead and failed to retire a batter.
Two hits, two walks and a wild pitch later, he was gone.
“I think he’s just looking for his release point,” manager Rocco Baldelli said after the Twins beat Seattle 10-5. “He’s throwing strikes at a good rate at the Triple-A level. And he’s done it. He’s done it at several different levels throughout the course of his career, and I think he’s looking to find it out there on the mound.
“I think he’ll find it, but I think that’s probably what he’s done. He’s just finding that release point.”
One of the Twins’ top pitching prospects, Romero was called up in place of righthander Ryan Eades, who was sent back to Class AAA Rochester after pitching 1⅔ scoreless innings in a 10-inning loss Wednesday. Romero had only earned his first save at any level Tuesday, but the 24-year-old Dominican’s transition from being a starter to a reliever is going rougher than everyone imagined.
Romero has the stuff to be effective, with a fastball that can reach 97 miles per hour and a sharp slider. The Twins also believe Romero has the makeup to excel as a closer. He was expected to be part of the Twins bullpen to start the season, but he ended up at Rochester after giving up nine earned runs over 9⅔ innings this spring.
Thursday marked the third time the Twins have called him up this season, but he has had a hard time retiring batters, posting a 7.88 ERA in eight relief outings.
The Twins will be in the market for relief pitching before the July 31 trade deadline. But it would also help if in-house options such as Romero can contribute.
“It does come down to going out there and executing and strike throwing as well,” Baldelli said. “He has great stuff. He has the kind of stuff that moves an incredible amount. To harness it, it’s not always the easiest thing to do, but when he does harness it and he’s locked into that role and he’s comfortable with it, he can be a great weapon. Everyone around here sees that and knows that and I think he knows that.”
Bullpen or playpen?
The Twins bullpen overall has been in a rough stretch, one that continued Thursday.
After Romero left, Matt Magill entered and escaped the eighth with no further damage. But Magill gave up two runs in the ninth, meaning he has given up 11 earned runs over his past 4⅔ innings. Over the past 15 games, Twins relievers have posted a 7.30 ERA.
It a couple instances, the relievers have pitched better than the results indicate. Tyler Duffey took the loss Wednesday when three Twins errors in the 10th inning fueled Seattle’s victory.
But there have been too many outings during those 15 games in which the bullpen has been ineffective.
“I think it’s like any other rough stretch that a guy or subset of guys has had,” Baldelli said. “Most rough stretches, they just work themselves out. A lot of the time, I believe that.”
• Righthander Michael Pineda did not earn a decision, but he held the Mariners to one run over 5⅔ innings, topping 96 mph on the gun and throwing some good sliders. He had given up exactly three earned runs in each of his previous six starts before Thursday.
• Lefthander Taylor Rogers, bothered by a sore back, continues to improve, Baldelli said. Rogers could have been used in an emergency, but the Twins prefer to give him more time to recover.
• Not all top picks pan out. The Twins this week sold lefthander Tyler Jay to Cincinnati. Jay was the sixth overall pick in the 2015 draft but never got on track, going 13-13 with a 3.84 ERA in 100 minor league games, 18 as a starter.