The minute Sergio Romo walked onto the practice fields of the A’s Spring Training facility at Fitch Park, manager Bob Melvin noticed a different vibe.
Romo, whose one-year deal with the A’s was officially announced on Thursday, partook in some fielding drills and light tossing sessions with his new club. Throughout the practice, Melvin immediately noticed a uniqueness to the 13-year veteran reliever.
“He looks good in green,” Melvin said. “I talked to him for a little while out there. He seems to be a bit of a free spirit, and that should play well here and fit in well here. He’s not really a guy that we're worried about getting ready too quickly.”
Romo, who turns 38 on March 4, brings a track record that aligns with what the A’s were searching for when addressing their bullpen needs this offseason. The right-hander was a key member of Giants’ bullpens that helped bring San Francisco three World Series titles from 2010-14. Known for slinging his signature Frisbee-like slider, Romo continues to do a solid job of limiting hard contact. He ranked in the 82nd percentile among relief pitchers in exit velocity allowed in 2020 while posting a 4.05 ERA in 24 games with the Twins.
How the A’s utilize Romo is yet to be determined. He brings plenty of closer experience, though that role is now likely to go to right-hander Trevor Rosenthal, who reportedly agreed to a one-year deal with the team on Thursday. Romo could be utilized in several ways out of the A’s bullpen, including the setup role that was occupied by departed free agent Joakim Soria last season.
“It's tough to tell at this point,” Melvin said of Romo’s role with the club. “It could be setup. It could be matchup. In a leverage situation, maybe a little bit earlier than setup. Not really sure yet. I think he's open for anything. He just wants to contribute to a team, and based on the fact that our bullpen seems to be looking better and better every day, it just means we have a lot of depth and potentially can rest guys a little bit more.
“He's still getting guys out, and he's really difficult on right-handed batters. It's a really good pickup for us. We're excited, and doubly because of the personality he brings, too.”
Melvin intrigued by new ball
Melvin is looking forward to seeing the altered baseball MLB designed for the 2021 season. Manufactured by Rawlings, the new ball has loosened tension on the first three wool windings within the ball, which should allow balls to travel a shorter distance than the older models.
“There's still some pretty strong guys in this game, and when they square them up, it's going to go over the fence, so that's kind of the unknown,” Melvin said. “You've heard a lot of things about whether or not it's lighter. You hear things about the core and it being centered and so forth. And then you look at the numbers, especially last year in the postseason with all the home runs, I think MLB is always trying to tinker and get the best product out there, so it'll be interesting. We'll see how it goes.
“It can be tough to hit a home run in Oakland at night anyway, but you find out pretty quickly when you have these balls in batting practice and it potentially looks a little bit different. I'm eager to find out as well.”