Inbox: Are Romero's struggles cause for worry?

Beat reporter Do-Hyoung Park answers questions from Twins fans with Opening Day nearing

March 21st, 2019

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- There are seven days to go before the Twins host the Indians at Target Field for Opening Day, and Minnesota faces some difficult decisions in the coming week, as it needs to trim the roster down from 36 to 25 players. Let's address some of those questions in the final Twins Inbox before the 2019 season officially gets underway.

It's not necessarily because of 's last two outings -- in which he has allowed nine runs (eight earned) while recording only two outs -- but chief baseball officer Derek Falvey said that the Twins are still looking for Romero to "grow into" higher-leverage roles at this point, and manager Rocco Baldelli said that they're still evaluating the development of the 24-year-old right-hander as spring comes to a close.

They maintain that Romero will still throw meaningful innings at the Major League level this season; remember that before his recent struggles, he opened the spring by allowing one run in nine innings, though it looks like his velocity isn't quite up to midseason levels yet. It looks like his initial role will be as a more stretched-out reliever that can pitch multiple innings when needed.

As for , he's said that he was unhappy with his mechanics at times last season, and he worked over the offseason to address those issues and combine his slider and cutter into one pitch.

Yeah, I'd say so. has had a fine spring at the plate, hitting 12-for-42 (.286) with two homers and his characteristic bat control, and he's able to fill in at third base, second base, catcher and in the outfield. That versatility will be valuable early in the season when the Twins play Interleague games at National League parks, particularly in Miguel Sano's absence.

I think the chances are pretty slim. The Twins' roster is actually pretty crowded, with Matt Magill and Adalberto Mejia both out of options in the bullpen and a potentially expanded bench early in the season. It looks to me like a lot of this will depend on what happens with Addison Reed, Romero and Magill in the last week of camp, but it seems more likely that Harper and Collins will start the season in Triple-A.

The chances appear quite slim. The Twins likely wouldn't be looking to sign Keuchel to a long-term deal, and they appear happy with all of their rotation options in the short term, with Mejia stashed in the bullpen and Kohl Stewart, Stephen Gonsalves, Zack Littell and Lewis Thorpe as reinforcements in Triple-A.

If the Twins look externally for a rotation option, I think it seems more likely that they would go after one at the Trade Deadline instead of signing a free agent with this little time to go before Opening Day.

certainly played well last season after he came to the Twins in the trade that sent Lance Lynn to the Yankees, hitting .236/.294/.488 with nine homers in 35 games. But there's just no room for another first base/outfield type on this roster as it's currently constructed, especially since both C.J. Cron and Marwin Gonzalez have stayed healthy this spring.

I don't think Cron was going to see a serious challenge from Austin or Lucas Duda for the starting first-base role this spring, as Cron is coming off a 30-homer season and posted a better slash line (.253/.323/.493) in 140 games last season for the Rays. Austin could provide solid pop off the bench, but he doesn't offer Gonzalez's defensive versatility and would no longer see regular at-bats at designated hitter. I'm not sure they could get him enough at-bats to justify the roster spot.

I think the Twins would love to stash Austin at Triple-A Rochester as a Major League-ready reinforcement at first base if he can clear waivers, but if the Twins lose Austin, top first-base prospects Brent Rooker and Luke Raley are also expected to start the year at Triple-A.

Romero's recent struggles aside, the relievers that the Twins hope to use in high-leverage situations have been pretty solid this spring. I know there are Twins fans out there who have been disappointed that Minnesota didn't add a more "proven" reliever this offseason, but proven doesn't necessarily equal success.

wasn't a household name last season, but he became one of the best relievers in the American League after he added a slider -- he didn't allow a run beyond July 28. posted the best strikeout and walk rates of his career once he returned from Tommy John surgery. They've both had solid springs. has had a lot of success with his splitter and his new cutter in Grapefruit League action, and has also looked effective throughout the spring.

If you asked me to pinpoint a specific element of the bullpen that worried me, it would probably be the depth -- at least until Romero develops into the back-end reliever that the Twins hope he can become. But the talent appears to be there to hold leads late in games.