Romo continues to make strong impression at Spring Breakout

March 17th, 2024

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- On Saturday morning, Rockies manager Bud Black said the team's No. 9 prospect per MLB Pipeline -- catcher Drew Romo -- had made an impression in Major League camp. During the Spring Breakout game against the Diamondbacks -- a 3-1 loss at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick -- Romo brought a smile to Black’s face.

With two outs in the top of the third, Rockies left-handed pitcher and No. 16 prospect Carson Palmquist had a 1-2 count against Jansel Luis. Plate umpire Matt Winter called the next pitch a ball, so Romo tapped his helmet -- the signal to challenge the call.

The call was changed, the inning ended and Black broke into a huge smile in the dugout. Romo’s two hits, one for an RBI in the fourth inning, kept Black happy.

There is no reason for the Rockies to rush Romo, 22, thanks to the presence of veterans Elias Díaz and Jacob Stallings. But Romo has done enough to remain in Major League camp.

“Romo has been fine,” Black said. “He’s not really hitting [4-for-20 in 11 Cactus League games], but more importantly the defense has shown up and he’s continuing to mature. He’s personable. He cares. There’s work ethic and preparation.”

As Black said of the players in Saturday’s game during an in-game interview, “They’re closer than they think.”

Let’s start with Romo and look at what we learned during the game.

Confidence is growing
The challenge and the hits were highlights, but what made just as much of an impression was the way Romo stepped up when pitcher Angel Chivilli, 21, struggled during what would become a two-run fourth inning for the Diamondbacks. Romo called time and was in command during a mound visit.

Romo’s confidence has grown during Major League camp. Veteran pitchers have embraced and mentored Romo, but they also listen to him.

“It definitely goes both ways,” Romo said. “With me being younger than most of the pitchers, I ask a lot of questions -- what they’re trying to do, what the plan is, what they want from me in terms of my setup and my target. And they want to know non-baseball stuff. We’re connecting as people, building trust.”

It went up from there
Right-hander Chase Dollander (No. 2) endured a long season at the University of Tennessee last year. Believing he had lost some physical “stability,” he and the Rockies -- who selected him ninth overall in the 2023 MLB Draft -- agreed that he would not pitch in professional games until this spring.

Dollander started his pro career with a walk to the Diamondbacks’ Jorge Barrosa to open Saturday’s game. But Dollander forced a double-play grounder from Jordan Lawlar and ended the inning unscathed.

“There were going to be some jitters, but I was staying closed and driving the fastball down the mound,” said Dollander, who added that looking to the outfield and seeing former Vols teammate Jordan Beck lent some familiarity.

Dollander totaled 10 pitches (five strikes) while relying totally on his four-seam and two-seam fastballs.

The real Veen is seen
Zac Veen (No. 6) rarely sees a pitch he doesn’t like, so it took some doing for the Diamondbacks’ Yilber Diaz to fall behind 3-0. But Diaz laid the next pitch across the plate, and Veen smoked it just left of center for a double in the third inning.

Veen also flashed some of the personality that fans of Double-A Hartford were robbed of when he tried to play through a left hand/wrist tendon injury last year before finally opting for season-ending surgery after 46 games (he hit .209 with two homers and 24 RBIs). Veen pointed toward the dugout as the ball landed in the outfield and had to turn on the speed to beat a strong throw from Diamondbacks center fielder Druw Jones.

“We all wanted to have a lot of fun going into it,” said Veen, who batted .214 in Major League camp. “There are a lot of great guys to be playing with.”

A four-pitch closer
Righty Zach Agnos ran away with the California League lead in saves with 27 last season, and he demonstrated why on Saturday.

With runners at second and third and two outs in the fifth, Agnos mixed a four-seam fastball and slider, then froze Tommy Troy with a changeup to end the scoreless frame with a strikeout. Agnos also flashed a sinker during the inning -- an advanced pitch mix for a reliever early in his pro career.

The future
Black used to self-identify as a traditionalist, but he likes recent innovations and believes a challenge system for balls and strikes will be a hit in the Majors.

“It’s interactive,” Black said. “It adds another element to the game that is fan-friendly.”