Fernando Romero, whose Twins career began with a flourish in 2018, ended this week with a one-sentence notification on the MLB waiver wire, and a new job in Japan.
The 25-year-old righthander, who didn't allow a run over the first 15⅔ innings of his career but didn't pitch at all in 2020, was released by the Twins on Thursday as part of an agreement with a Japanese team, a major league source confirmed.
Romero's new team in the Nippon Professional Baseball League, the Yokohama DeNa Bay Stars, will announce the acquisition next week when all the paperwork is complete. The Twins will receive money for the transaction.
Romero spent the entire 2020 season on the MLB restricted list after being stopped by U.S. Customs in Florida last February as he tried to report to the Twins for spring training. Romero was denied entry, sent back to the Dominican Republic and was unable to obtain a new visa to join the team.
The Twins signed Romero as a 16-year-old in 2011, and he rapidly established himself as one of their top pitching prospects as he climbed their system. Baseball America rated him the Twins' No. 4 overall prospect in 2017, and he appeared to live up to that billing a year later, when he was summoned to Minneapolis to make his MLB debut on May 2.
Romero shut out the Blue Jays for 5⅓ innings to earn his first win, then held the Cardinals scoreless over six innings in St. Louis five days later. On May 13, facing fellow rookie Shohei Ohtani in Anaheim, Romero allowed one run over five innings, but his 15⅔ inning scoreless streak to start a career ranks second in Twins history behind Andrew Albers, who reached 17⅓ innings in 2013.
Romero's ERA after five starts was 1.88, but it was 7.54 in his next five starts, and he was returned to the minors on June 22. The Twins moved him to the bullpen a year later, even considered him for the closer's role. But an 8.38 ERA in spring training scuttled those plans, and Romero spent most of the season in the minors, joining the Twins for only 15 games.
In 26 total games for the Twins over two seasons, he had a 5.17 ERA and a 1.56 WHIP in 26 games (69⅓ innings).