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Romano changes things up in strong start

Rookie makes adjustments, goes with 3-pitch mix to spin 6 innings of 1-run ball
MLB.com @m_sheldon

CINCINNATI -- Coming off of a poor first start of the second half on Tuesday, Reds rookie Sal Romano made several adjustments. One of them involved laundry, of all things.

Unlike last time, Romano didn't have to sweat it out so much during a humid day while turning in his strong six-inning performance in the Reds' 6-3 victory over the Marlins on Sunday.

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CINCINNATI -- Coming off of a poor first start of the second half on Tuesday, Reds rookie Sal Romano made several adjustments. One of them involved laundry, of all things.

Unlike last time, Romano didn't have to sweat it out so much during a humid day while turning in his strong six-inning performance in the Reds' 6-3 victory over the Marlins on Sunday.

View Full Game Coverage

"I came in between every inning and just got a new jersey," said Romano, who gave up one earned run and three hits with one walk and seven strikeouts in his fourth big league start. "The clubhouse staff was able to dry it for me every time. I think it wasn't as heavy."

While Romano, the Reds' No. 7 prospect according to MLBPipeline.com, rotated between two No. 47 jerseys, he also rotated his repertoire while in sync with catcher Tucker Barnhart. It meant getting hitters off of his fastball by working in changeups. According to Statcast™, he threw eight of them out of 98 pitches, but it was just enough to give Miami's hitters something to think about.

"Sometimes I get away from it and don't really think about throwing it," Romano said of the changeup. "I talked to Tucker before the game and said, 'I want you to throw [the sign] down there, and I want to be confident throwing it, no matter what the count is.' We were able to do that today."

Romano didn't begin smoothly, as the game started with a Dee Gordon infield hit and a stolen base before a groundout put Gordon on third with one out. But the 23-year-old right-hander struck out Christian Yelich and Justin Bour to escape.

This Reds fan met Gordon ... and kicked him

A leadoff single and a one-out walk in the second inning also yielded no damage. Then Romano buckled down and retired 13 of his last 14 batters, the only damage coming on A.J. Ellis' solo homer with two outs in the fourth inning.

"He threw a ton of strikes and challenged guys and pitched really well," Barnhart said. "A three-pitch mix today. He threw quite a bit of changeups. It's a pitch that's had to develop for him, and it's continued to develop. He was really good."

Romano had 43 pitches through two innings.

"Innings three and four were pretty important, because he got through that lineup pretty quickly," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "It's a good lineup. That's not an easy matchup. They stack the lefties, they've got [Giancarlo] Stanton there on the front end, you've got a speed guy like Gordon. I think that was big."

Romano will see the Marlins again in his next start on Friday at Miami.

"I just thought he pretty much overpowered us," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "He was just better than us, honestly, today. And I guess the bad news is we're going to get him again here."

Through four starts, Romano is 2-2 with a 5.50 ERA. Along with Luis Castillo and Robert Stephenson, he is one of three rookies trying to show he has viability in the big league rotation.

But obviously, Price doesn't want them to just take lumps.

"It means something to perform," Price said. "You want to see something that gets you encouraged about the type of player they're becoming, and not to see the big leagues as always being a roadblock.

"From a performance standpoint, seeing Sal or seeing Castillo come up and perform, that's a boost. That's something you can look at in the future, if they're able to maintain it, and go, 'We might have some pieces for 2018.' But if you come up and you show stuff but you don't perform, you're as big of a question mark in 2018 as you are right now. That's unfortunate because that's opportunity lost in my book."

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