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Ready to roll: Romano eyeing rotation spot

Reds righty confident he can emerge from heavy spring competition with coveted role
MLB.com @m_sheldon

CINCINNATI -- Reds pitcher Sal Romano just wrapped the team's caravan over the weekend and has his sights firmly set on arriving in Arizona next week for an early start to Spring Training.

There will be a large battle for limited spots in the Reds' rotation.

CINCINNATI -- Reds pitcher Sal Romano just wrapped the team's caravan over the weekend and has his sights firmly set on arriving in Arizona next week for an early start to Spring Training.

There will be a large battle for limited spots in the Reds' rotation.

"I'm ready to go. It's time to get there," said Romano, who was 5-8 with a 4.45 ERA in 16 starts in his 2017 rookie season. "I have one goal and it's to make this team. I was really close last year. I think I really opened some eyes last year at Spring Training. Hopefully I will have the same type of Spring Training this year and be part of that rotation."

Romano had a 3.15 ERA in six Spring Training games during what became a wide-open battle for rotation spots, but he was one of the final cuts before the team broke camp. He made an unsuccessful Major League debut a couple of weeks later, on April 16 vs. the Brewers.

In the loss to Milwaukee, Romano threw three innings and allowed three runs (two earned) on three hits -- two of them homers -- with four walks and two strikeouts. But he was over-excited and ran out of gas early with 82 pitches. The Reds sent him down to Triple-A Louisville, and after a few starts there he missed a month with an inflamed right shoulder.

Romano returned for a spot start on July 6 at Colorado, and he was much better over five innings, allowing two earned runs, six hits, one walk and striking out six to get his first big league win.

Video: CIN@COL: Romano fans six over five innings of work

In the second half, Romano was inconsistent for a few starts but found his footing down the stretch. Over his final eight starts, he had a 3.17 ERA, with 46 hits, 17 walks and 39 strikeouts in 48 1/3 innings. Besides featuring a fastball that could reach 96-98 mph when needed, he also made strides to develop his slider and changeup.

"Knowing I was probably going to be there the rest of the year really helped me," Romano said. "I was able to not look over my shoulder and go out every fifth day, get the ball and worry about myself. I think that helped me. It really clicked for me up there. I figured out myself and what type of pitcher I am and what I need to do in order to be a successful Major League pitcher."

Injuries befell the Reds' rotation during camp last year and opened some spots. The final jobs went to rookies Rookie Davis and Amir Garrett and veteran Bronson Arroyo in his comeback effort.

Romano, 24, has focused his offseason workouts on building shoulder strength to avoid a repeat of last year's injury and increase his endurance to provide innings.

Heading into this spring at Goodyear, Ariz., the favorites for the top four spots are veterans Anthony DeSclafani, Homer Bailey and Brandon Finnegan, while Luis Castillo is a lock after his strong rookie year. The fifth spot is open for a battle among Romano, Tyler Mahle, Robert Stephenson, Garrett, Cody Reed and Michael Lorenzen.

"I'm confident in myself that I can win that -- whether it's one spot, two spots, whatever," Romano said. "I am confident that I can show I can go in there and do the job, show that I'm ready to go and be the guy that can help them."

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