FORT MYERS, FLA. – Fernando Romero allowed just eight baserunners during his first seven Grapefruit League appearances this spring, and only one of them scored. Then 10 consecutive batters reached base over two ugly outings, and Friday the young Twins righthander was sent back to Class AAA Rochester to start the season.
Is there a connection?
“No, no, no. Fernando is progressing the way we need him to,” pitching coach Wes Johnson insisted after the starter-turned-reliever received the news of his reassignment. “If a hitter goes 0-for-4 today, do we stop playing him? It’s not about his last two games.”
Still, Romero’s demotion, and a couple of other developments Friday, lent some clarity to the Twins’ roster plans — and opened the door for a nonroster pitcher to make the team.
After the Twins’ 10-6 loss to Boston, the Twins informed lefthander Tim Collins and infielder Adam Rosales that they would not make the 25-man roster and granted them their release. The team had until noon Saturday to guarantee them a major league roster spot, pay them a $100,000 retention bonus to accept a minor league assignment or release them.
In addition, Baldelli strongly hinted righthanded relievers Addison Reed and Matt Magill will open the season on the injured list. Reed, who has given up 10 runs in 5⅓ innings this spring and hasn’t pitched since March 14, is hampered by a sprained left thumb, Baldelli said, while Magill, sidelined since March 13 by an unspecified “arm issue” according to Baldelli, has given up six runs in 5⅔ innings.
“It’s certainly possible” that time on the injured list will be necessary, Baldelli said, though he doesn’t believe either injury will keep them out long. “We’re going to let them work back at their own pace,” he said.
If Reed, Magill and lefthander Gabriel Moya are placed on the injured list, the Twins have only five pitchers certain to be in their bullpen: righthanders Blake Parker, Trevor May and Trevor Hildenberger, plus lefthanders Taylor Rogers and Adalberto Mejia. That makes it more likely that righty Ryne Harper, who has yet to give up an earned run in seven Grapefruit League innings, or Mike Morin, who owns a 3.72 ERA in 9⅔ innings, could win a spot and come north with the team.
Romero won’t, though “he’s still a big part of what we’re going to do here,” Baldelli said. But his demotion had more to do with the Twins’ next 20 games than Romero’s past two. Moving to the bullpen requires a lot of adjustments for a player who still has never made a relief appearance as a professional, and the Twins also expected Romero to need extra time to settle in. And with five off days scheduled during the first two weeks of the regular season, the Twins decided before his minor meltdown to make sure he gets more work than he would get with the big-league team.
“We looked at, what’s the best way to help Fernando continue to progress? Help him get his routines better and better,” Johnson said. “We think it’s important that he keeps pitching right now, and we’re not sure how that would happen with our schedule.”
Still, Romero gave the Twins plenty of reason to believe that the 24-year-old Dominican will thrive in his new role. Batters were hitting just .167 against him after seven relief appearances, totaling nine innings, with only five hits and three walks allowed. But then 10 consecutive batters over two outings reached against him, half of them by walks, and nine runs scored in only two-thirds of an inning, two of them when Romero made his problems worse with wild pitches.
Romero’s spring in some ways mirrored his experience in the Twins rotation last season. The rookie burst into Minnesota’s consciousness with 15 scoreless innings to start his career, and he owned a 1.88 ERA after five starts. But he gave up 23 earned runs over 27 combined innings in his next six starts and was returned to Rochester.