BRADENTON, FLA. – Twins righthander Fernando Romero is not in spring training because of a customs issue that arose as he attempted to enter the United States, the club announced Saturday.
“He’s still not here and won’t be joining us for the foreseeable future,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said Saturday. “I can’t give you an exact date because I don’t know when he is going to get here.
“He flew here for spring training and was turned around at customs.”
Romero has to resubmit documents to obtain a visa to enter the country, a process that’s expected to take several weeks. Therefore, the club is preparing for the possibility that Romero will not be part of the major league camp. Saturday was the deadline for players to report in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement, but the Twins don’t plan on penalizing Romero.
The Twins had hoped Romero would battle for a bullpen job. He boarded a flight from Santo Domingo to Atlanta shortly before pitchers and catchers were scheduled to report Feb. 12, where he planned to board a plane for Fort Myers. That’s when Romero ran into problems at customs and was sent back home.
The Twins said Romero was not charged with a crime. He will work out occasionally at the club’s academy in Boca Chica while awaiting approval for a new visa. And he could be used on March 7, when the Twins and Tigers play an exhibition game in the Dominican Republic.
Romero was in the Twin Cities in January for TwinsFest, but that was under a tourist visa.
Romero is 3-4 with a 5.17 ERA in 26 major league games, 11 as a starter. He failed to win a spot in the bullpen last year and spent most of the season at Class AAA Rochester. He worked over his mechanics while with the Red Wings, and the Twins were encouraged during a late-season call-up.
He had a chance to win a job this camp, especially after the Twins traded hard-throwing righthander Brusdar Graterol to the Dodgers as part of a deal for righthander Kenta Maeda. But Romero almost definitely will begin the season at Rochester and have to earn a promotion.
“It’s definitely disappointing to not have him here in camp,” Baldelli said. “He made some very nice adjustments, and we already know what kind of ability he has. When he gets here I’m looking forward to watching him throw. We’re going to make the best of a situation that’s imperfect.
“Hopefully he comes into camp ready to go and feeling good and building off of what he was doing at the end of last year because he looked really good.”
Baldelli presented Pirates manager Derek Shelton with a sign before Saturday’s game. The Twins grabbed the sign last Sunday during the general managers/managers media day in North Port.
It was a sign of Shelton’s name that was used to help media find the right managers. But the Twins doctored Shelton’s to include the phrase: “Please welcome ‘The Big Shooter,’ Derek Shelton, to Pirate City.”
Shelton didn’t have any gags ready for Baldelli. In fact, Shelton went the other way, having music from Baldelli’s favorite band, Phish, played during the Twins portion of batting practice.
“I’m a little concerned when we go to Fort Myers what he’ll actually do,” Shelton said. “I definitely wasn’t going to mess with him. I was nice to him. I played Phish music during BP. I think when we go down there, he may mess with me a little bit.”
The Twins return to Hammond Stadium on Sunday to play Toronto. Righthander Jose Berrios will start for the Twins against Blue Jays lefthander Anthony Kay.
La VELLE E. NEAL III