Relaxed Romo making the most of Rox camp

February 27th, 2024

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- On an easily forgotten midgame play Friday against the Diamondbacks, Rockies catching prospect foreshadowed that this just might be a more carefree Spring Training than last.

Arizona had a runner at third base in a close game -- an eventual 3-0 Rockies win. Romo leaped from a one-knee stance and fired a pickoff throw. Risky, yes. But for Romo, 22, a little risk is good.

“In the moment, I was just playing, so I didn’t really think about it,” Romo said. “But looking back, that was a pretty crazy play -- first game of spring, my second inning of the season.”

Hard to imagine Romo trying that last year, when he, understandably, pressed.

The 35th overall Draft pick in 2020 out of The Woodlands (Texas) High School, the Rockies planned to bring him to camp in ’21, but the lockout changed things. In ’22, he arrived as the No. 84 prospect in MLB Pipeline’s Top 100, with the idea that he could ascend all the way to the Majors.

Romo, now the Rockies’ No. 9 prospect, was competitive for a young player at a key position, but coaches hoped he would find some ability to relax within his intensity. It didn’t help nervousness when Royals speedster Samad Taylor stole home on a Romo return throw to the mound.

The season at Double-A Hartford saw him bat .197 through June 7 and lose his Top 100 spot by midseason. But a couple of adjustments with Hartford hitting coach Tom Sutaris allowed him to make solid contact. From June 8 to Sept. 17, Romo had a slash line of .295/.361/.542 with 10 home runs, 33 RBIs, 13 doubles and two triples in 217 plate appearances to earn a four-game look-see at Triple-A Albuquerque and an invitation to the Arizona Fall League.

The Rockies brought in veteran Jacob Stallings to share duty with 2023 All-Star Elias Díaz, in hopes of avoiding pressing an inexperienced catcher into the sporadic playing time that comes with being a backup. That means Romo and two former collegiate catchers who are ahead of him defensively, Willie MacIver and Braxton Fulford, can develop and compete for a phone call.

Romo is using the time around the big club and the coaching he’s receiving to feel comfortable in his catching gear, so his ability can show.

“I’m always going to be authentic,” Romo said. “I love to have fun, be silly and goofy. But when it comes time to get to work and come game time, I get very serious. But I’m having more fun, for sure.”

Romo has a pair of hits this spring, a soft RBI single in the opener and a gap double on Monday against the Dodgers. He has made hard contact on outs. His mind is more free, and so is his bat.

“We don’t want him to be too high-strung -- you’ve got to play relaxed,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “We’ve seen this spring -- another year of maturity, a year older, a guy who is starting to come into his own, comfortable in his own shoes, comfortable who he is.

“He performed very well last year in Double-A. The errors were a little high, and that’s a focus for Drew, especially on the throwing side. Drew’s a good student.”

Much of the brainwork occurred during the Arizona Fall League. Romo appeared in 11 games (.231, two triples, two RBIs) and caught five for the Salt River Rafters. He used the time wisely.

“It was, honestly, like Spring Training at the end of the year,” Romo said. “I was catching so many bullpens every day because we had a ton of pitchers on that Fall League team. It was cool catching pitchers from other organizations. I was able to focus on my catching -- some of the things that I was working on.

“It was also a good opportunity for me to get in the [batting] cages and hit and catch off a machine and focus on things I struggled with last year.”

Romo continues to enjoy his baseball education. This spring, he’s letting it show.