Bucs hoping Romero bolsters bullpen

Musgrove close to throwing bullpen session, Cervelli returns to lineup

April 16th, 2018

PITTSBURGH -- Reliever officially joined the Pirates on Monday, bringing a powerful left arm that the Bucs hope will bolster their bullpen.

The Pirates claimed Romero off waivers from the Nationals on Saturday, a week after Washington designated him for assignment, and added him to their roster before Monday's series opener against the Rockies at PNC Park. To make room on their roster, the Bucs optioned struggling right-hander to Triple-A Indianapolis.

Romero didn't exactly walk into a room full of strangers. He knew , and from the Dominican Republic. He used to be roommates with closer Felipe Vazquez, another hard-throwing lefty and former Rays prospect who pitched out of the Nationals bullpen before coming to Pittsburgh.

"[Vazquez] called me every day, 'Hey, when are you coming here?'" Romero said. "Soon, I hope."

Romero, 27, posted a 3.56 ERA with 65 strikeouts and 23 walks in 55 2/3 innings over 53 appearances for the Nationals last season. He has shown overpowering stuff at times, striking out 9.7 batters per nine innings, but he's also struggled with his command while walking 4.5 per nine. His average fastball velocity dipped to start this season (95.6 mph, down from 97.9 mph last year) as he allowed three runs on five hits in two innings for the Nationals.

"There's been situations where his pitch sequence has been very good, his pitch efficiency has been very good," manager Clint Hurdle said. "There's other times when the command hasn't been what it needs to be to be a really effective back-end guy. The ability to pitch in the middle intrigues us. The ability to pitch a clean inning. See where we can take him to help him."

Neverauskas was part of the Pirates' middle-relief problem. After cracking Pittsburgh's Opening Day roster, he allowed eight runs on 11 hits and three walks in 6 2/3 innings over seven appearances.

"I think he understands now that there's a real challenge every day at this level. It's not just getting here, but it's staying here," Hurdle said. "I think he's very mindful of what he needs to do, and it's pitch selection, it's pitch execution, and then it's putting away hitters … He's got a lot of good things in place that I imagine he'll be able to go down and establish some traction quickly."

Around the horn

• Right-hander Joe Musgrove (shoulder muscle strain) worked out and played long toss on Monday, Hurdle said, and could throw a bullpen session on Thursday.

• Catcher , who was hit by a pitch on Sunday in Miami, was back in the Pirates lineup on Monday night.

• Josh Harrison's injury won't push the Pirates to rebalance their bench and bullpen, Hurdle said. The Bucs currently have carried eight relievers and four reserves since Opening Day.

"No more than when you have difficulties in the bullpen make us happy that we've got the extra arm. You can't have it both ways," Hurdle said. "Sometimes you don't know how these things are going to play themselves out when you give men opportunity to go play. That part of it doesn't change what we believe we need to do right now to best serve our club."