If the Twins didn’t have an urgent need for a fill-in starter, Fernando Romero probably wouldn’t be at Target Field today.
That’s Paul Molitor’s opinion, anyway, and it’s not meant as a criticism of the rookie righthander, far from it. Romero figures to be a fixture in the Twins’ rotation, perhaps at the top of it, for several years. It’s just that the Twins, when they sent Romero back to Triple-A on June 24, after 10 often successful starts, had some particular adjustments in mind for him to make. And then, Molitor worries, they didn’t give him enough time to make them.
“We were trying to stay with the plan, bigger picture, with him,” Molitor said. “When we sent him down, there were some specific things in regard to mechanics and how we wanted him to better use his pitches and the combination of pitches. Not only minimize, but be more economical with his pitches. We’ve seen that at times. There’s still been some command issues.”
But with Aaron Slegers feeling soreness in his pitching shoulder, and Ervin Santana still on the rehab circuit, Romero seemed the best option today. He has made only three starts at Class AAA Rochester since being sent down, which is what worries Molitor, but he’s also allowed only three runs over 18 2/3 innings in that time, a 1.45 ERA.
“What I know of this guy,” Molitor said, “he’s going to be excited and try to contribute and help us win.”
A loss would put a damper on an otherwise successful homestand. The Twins won eight of the first nine games, but going into the break with back-to-back losses, particularly Saturday’s 19-6 ugliness, would erase some of the confidence they have built up.
Romero will be “facing” Ryne Stanek, a reliever who usually throws only two innings at a time. Stanek will be making his 12th “start” — the Rays actually refer to relievers who pitch the first innings as “openers,” not “starters” — and he’s been a success in the unusual role, posting a 1.08 ERA in the previous 11. He hasn’t given up a run in his last nine “starts.”
Yesterday was the Twins’ final Saturday afternoon game of the season. Today is their final home game until July 30. Here are the lineups: