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Romano gets first career win in Coors start

Rookie composed in second start, allows 2 runs in 5 innings
MLB.com @m_sheldon

DENVER -- This time, Sal Romano took it down a notch.

Showing more composure in his second big league start for the Reds, Romano made a strong bid Thursday to remain in the second-half rotation. In a 6-3 victory for his first win in the Majors while Cincinnati earned a four-game series split, Romano delivered five innings with two earned runs, six hits, one walk and six strikeouts.

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DENVER -- This time, Sal Romano took it down a notch.

Showing more composure in his second big league start for the Reds, Romano made a strong bid Thursday to remain in the second-half rotation. In a 6-3 victory for his first win in the Majors while Cincinnati earned a four-game series split, Romano delivered five innings with two earned runs, six hits, one walk and six strikeouts.

View Full Game Coverage

"He made really large steps today, being able to go out there and command the zone, not try to do too much," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "I anticipate we'll see more of Sal."

In his big league debut, Romano was admittedly a combination of nervous and excited when he faced the Brewers on April 16. His fastball velocity, normally 93-95 mph, was averaging 96.8 mph and frequently hitting 98 mph. After three innings and 82 pitches -- with more balls than strikes -- a tired Romano was removed and was soon sent back to Triple-A Louisville.

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A shoulder injury sidelined Romano for a month but he was able to resume the type of work that made him the No. 7-ranked Reds prospect. Following an eight-inning complete game in his previous start for Louisville, he was recalled to start vs. Colorado.

Video: CIN@COL: Romano discusses his first career victory

In the first inning vs. the Rockies, the 23-year-old threw nine pitches with seven strikes. It included a DJ LeMahieu ground-ball double play after leadoff infield hit.

"I wanted to go out there and not overthrow," said Romano. "In my debut, I was just a little amped up. I want to have that 97-98 in the tank, but that's not how I pitch. I'm sitting 94-96, around there, let my ball work, using all my pitches. I was able to do that today."

By the fourth inning, Romano showed command of his secondary pitches and struck out Carlos Gonzalez and Mark Reynolds -- back-to-back -- with 87-mph sliders. The biggest challenge of his day came in the fifth inning.

A Tony Wolters RBI double cut the Reds lead to 3-2. Then Romano issued a two-out walk to Raimel Tapia that put runners on the corners. Price paid a rare mound visit where he doesn't remove a pitcher. It was a move to discuss strategy and the potential for a double steal of home.

Romano then went into a 3-0 count to LeMahieu but after a strike, got a routine groundout to the shortstop with his 84th pitch. Mission, accomplished.

Video: CIN@COL: Price discusses Romano's first MLB victory

"We just wanted to clarify some things and really point to Sal to focus on the hitter," Price said. "We weren't going to get carried away with holding the runner and throwing over and stuff like that. He did bear down and after falling behind, made the big pitches he needed to finish the inning."

"It was huge," Romano said. "I was able to limit the damage today. We had some good plays behind me. I got a couple big strikeouts when I needed it, and I got the win."

In the clubhouse after the game, remnants of the first big league victory celebration remained with a spot of shaving cream on the floor. There was also a small shiner under Romano's right eye, courtesy of a teammate that got more charged up than the right-hander was in his debut.

"I got a little battle scar during the celebration, but it's all good," Romano said.

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Cincinnati Reds, Sal Romano