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Romo thriving in role as Giants' closer

SAN FRANCISCO -- With the Giants celebrating their home opener and standing three outs from a victory, the frenetic strands of "El Mechon" hit the sound system and Sergio Romo made his way to the mound.

For the third time in as many tries, and the first time at home in 2013, Romo nailed down the save, giving him three spotless ninth innings to start his first full season as a closer. Having emerged from a committee and taken the reins late in the regular season in 2012, Romo is picking up where he left off in a great run through October a year ago.

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"Getting off to a good start like this is huge for Sergio," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said after Romo closed out a 1-0 victory over the Cardinals. "He's probably going to get tested here, but at the same time he's a special talent."

And he has the one thing you really need to be an effective closer: the confidence that he can get it done, every single time.

"He's not afraid. He wants to be out there and he wants to do anything he can to help the team win," Bochy said.

Romo, who served as the primary setup man for closer Brian Wilson until Wilson went down with an elbow injury last April, begins 2013 with a run of what is now 12 consecutive successful save opportunities, dating back to when he took over the closer's role in late August 2012.

Now that he's entering the season in the role, Romo said Friday he's taking the same approach he always has to late-innings relief.

"There really isn't much of a difference. My job is to pitch and get guys out," Romo said. "I'm very proud to be that last guy standing, of course, to be asked to be that guy. In reality, I just want the opportunity to pitch and contribute, and that's what I've gotten here. I don't have any doubt in my mind that I can get it done for these guys."

Veteran left-hander Jeremy Affeldt, who himself handled the eighth inning perfectly Friday in relief of starter Barry Zito, says Romo isn't the type of closer who throws fire like Cincinnati's Aroldis Chapman or Atlanta's Craig Kimbrel, but he's not going to back down, either.

"What he's going to do is throw a lot of strikes," Affeldt said.

True to form, Romo threw eight strikes in 11 pitches Friday and has gone for 26 strikes in 37 pitches thus far, counting his two saves in Los Angeles.

But that's not all Romo has going for him in the ninth. As Bochy points out, Romo might be known for his devastating slider but has four pitches he can use. As Affeldt points out, Romo brings a chip on his shoulder to the mound every single time out.

"I think for him, he pitches well with a sense he has to prove something, so he's always fiery when he's out there," Affeldt said. "He's pretty bold, he's very confident, he's not going to pitch like he's scared. He's going to pitch like he wants to get you out."

So far in 2013, he's 9-for-9 in that department, and 3-for-3 in saves.

He began Friday as part of the six-man crew chosen by the front office to accompany the World Series championship banner to its place on a flagpole in right-center field at AT&T Park, an emotional start to a day that ended with Romo recording the final out.

And the Giants' new closer says he didn't have any problem bringing his emotions down to earth after the thrills of the pregame ceremony.

"I'm always just excited to be at the ballpark," he said. "I can honestly say I have enough energy to feed the whole team, just bouncing up and down all day long. The first five, six innings I'm a fan, cheering my teammates and trying to be the best teammate I can. After that, it's all business."

John Schlegel is a national reporter for

San Francisco Giants, Sergio Romo