Fernando Romero had the kind of Spring Training that wins big league rotation spots. The right-hander tossed eight no-hit innings, walking just one and striking out eight.The Twins wanted Romero, ranked No. 66 on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list and No. 2 on Minnesota's Top 30, to get more work
Fernando Romero had the kind of Spring Training that wins big league rotation spots. The right-hander tossed eight no-hit innings, walking just one and striking out eight.
The Twins wanted Romero, ranked No. 66 on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list and No. 2 on Minnesota's Top 30, to get more work in Triple-A. Rather than sulk, he stayed on task and showed right from his first outing, five innings of shutout ball, that he'd be ready when the call to the Major Leagues came.
• Twins' Top 30 Prospects list | Twins prospects stats
It came this week, in time for Wednesday's start against the Blue Jays. And this isn't a spot start. The 23-year-old should be given every opportunity to stick in the Twins' rotation for the long haul as he takes his first step toward that goal.
Romero certainly has the stuff to get big league hitters out; it's just a matter of durability and command that will allow him to do it and have long-term success. He missed nearly all of the 2014 and '15 seasons because of Tommy John surgery. That's firmly in Romero's rearview mirror now after a healthy '16 and a '17 season that saw him log 125 innings, even if he was gassed at the end of the year and landed on the DL with a shoulder impingement in August.
That was obviously more precautionary, and Romero has been fine this spring and back to using his three-pitch mix effectively. He has gotten all the way back to his plus fastball, sitting in the mid-90s and touching 98-99 mph, thrown with excellent sink. Romero has tinkered with the sinker, his calling card, to make it even more effective. He misses bats and gets ground-ball outs, as evidenced by his career 1.69 GO/AO ratio. So far this year, Romero has done an excellent job pairing his fastball with a slider that flashes plus and a constantly improving changeup. He's using that changeup more as an effective weapon against lefties, and while this year provides a small sample size, lefties have hit just .200 against him, while they managed a .276 average in 2017.
Romero runs into command issues when he doesn't trust his stuff and doesn't attack hitters, instead trying to be too fine. That leads to more misses out of the zone and a higher walk rate and, as a result, he's pitched more than five innings just once so far this year. Romero has the mound presence and the confidence to challenge hitters when he's on the mound. All he has to do is remind himself of that, keep things simple, and let his stuff do the talking and he should be just fine in Minnesota.
Romero could be a bit amped up for this first start, so it shouldn't shock anyone if those command issues keep him from going too deep right out of the gate. But even if he gives the Twins five-inning starts for the short-term, he'll keep them in games, and he'll settle in as a guy who eventually could be considered a front-line starter down the road.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.