SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — No major league pitcher has climbed the Giants ballpark mound in more games than Sergio Romo. He absorbed the acclaim from so many of his 268 regular season appearances as a vital member of the bullpen on three World Series championship teams. But it was his four additional Visitor appearances that really made him realize where his home was.
“I was never booed – even when I showed up in a Dodger uniform,” Romo said. “That’s how passionate they are. They didn’t see the shirt I was wearing. They saw me again. That’s really the best way to put it: I just enjoyed the visibility that my teammates, the fans, everyone made me feel. Maybe they helped me feel visible to myself. I knew I was doing something right. I knew I was home.
And now, six years after throwing his last pitch as a giant and embarking on a free agent odyssey that has taken him to Dodgers and Rays and Marlins and Twins and A’s and Mariners and Blue Jays and Monclova in the Mexican League, Romo is ready to call it a career. He is ready to go home.
But first, he prepares to launch again.
The Giants and Romo have agreed to a minor league contract that will include an invite to major league camp. He’s due in Arizona on Friday, and while awaiting a medical, he’ll arrive at Scottsdale Stadium to find a locker with a Giants uniform. He will not dress with coaches and special assistants. He will be withdrawn to the clubhouse among his new teammates.
If all goes according to plan, the Giants will work with Romo to develop his conditioning and arm strength to compete in one or two exhibition games, including the March 27 Bay Bridge exhibition final against the A’s in San Francisco. The 40-year-old right-hander once again raced to the frenetically-paced Banda mound of “El Mechón”, broke a few of his sliders and capped off one of the most notable careers in Giants history.
“When they approached me it was, ‘You never know, you can catch lightning in a bottle,'” Romo said. “And I said, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa, I’ll be honest with you, I haven’t done anything since September. There is no lightning in this bottle, believe me. You’re not going to find that. But I know I’ll try to compete with my butt when I’m there. I might actually be nervous for a change.
Romo’s fearlessness was as much a trademark as his distinctive slider, which made him a relief pitcher ahead of his time in a game that increasingly gravitates towards specialization outside the bullpen. . No pitch he threw in his career was more daring or iconic than the otherwise benign 88mph fastball in 2012 that froze a Triple Crown winner, Miguel Cabrera, to win the Giants’ World Series championship. in Detroit.
on ESPN just now, one of my all-time favorite slots. Sergio Romo throws slider after slider to Miguel Cabrera, limping off the mound, freezes him for three strikes with a fastball. Masterful “upside down” pitch. pic.twitter.com/o8HfoPGGuz
— Eno Sarris (@enosarris) May 19, 2020
Romo came from a small town between the Salton Sea and the lettuce fields of the Imperial Valley. He held a generous 5ft 10in in his spikes. He pitched at places like Arizona Western College and the University of North Alabama and Colorado Mesa University, just hoping someone would notice and keep giving him a chance to pitch. And he’s played a more ruthless sport than Monsanto, regularly knocking out perfect physical specimens who are caught in the first round and have all the shiny new gear they could want and receive every developmental perk. In this environment, how does an undersized 28th rounder from Brawley, Calif. ever have a chance of reaching the major leagues? Or imagine the possibility of staying there?
But Romo had something so many of these newbies didn’t.
He launched his cursor with all the biblical fearlessness of a slingshot. And he never ran out of stones.
Now, Romo, the last active member of the Giants’ Core Four relief pitchers, plans to throw that slider in a Giants uniform one last time.
Giants president Farhan Zaidi brokered the deal with Romo’s agent Barry Meister, who understood what closing the loop would mean for his client. Former Giants general manager Bobby Evans, who lives a few doors down from Romo in San Francisco, also helped plant a seed that was already germinating in Zaidi’s mind in the second half of last season. Zaidi said he considered contacting Meister about Romo after the Blue Jays released him on July 20, but the Giants didn’t have a 40-man vacancy at the time and Romo had another interest. . He signed with Monclova on August 1, which kept him from joining the other members of the Core Four when the Giants 2012 World Series meet 12 days later.
Romo entered this final offseason unsure of his plans. But he said he knew it was time to call it a career when he didn’t get an invitation to pitch for Mexico at the World Baseball Classic. He therefore began a life transition as a full-time father. He married longtime partner Melinda in January and is enjoying the closer bond he is forming with his sons Rilen, 17, Rex, 11, Rhys, 7, Mateo, 4, and Lucas, who turns 2 on Sunday.
But a few more weeks in a Giants uniform was too good to pass up.
“It’s a legitimate off-the-list invitation,” said Romo, who is bringing his entire family with him to experience the next few weeks together. “I go through all the formalities. I don’t blame them. I’m 40 years old. I don’t blame them for wanting to cover their butt if something gnarly happens. I just hope I can get the team discount so I can get all my kids new jerseys! I’m excited, I really am.
Circumstances might be different now. So are the expectations. If nothing else, Romo will be at camp advising Giants pitchers on the mound mentality and maybe even sharing a secret or two about his signature slider. He must smile every time he hears about the latest trends in land design.
“They teach sweeper now!” he said in a fake announcer voice punctuated by a laugh. “This is the year of the sweeper. I’m like, ‘Oh, so now the sweeper is important? The sweeper changes the game? Eh. So the last 15 years of my life, it didn’t? This was a game changer for me!
“I could pass the cursor for once. I hesitated to do it, I can’t lie. It’s the only real thing that separates me from the rest. It’s just different.
This isn’t the first time the Giants have pulled strings from the roster so a beloved player could return to finish his career in a Giants uniform. In 2008, they signed major league first baseman JT Snow and placed him very briefly on the 40-man roster for the penultimate game of the 2008 season. hadn’t played in a major league game since 2006 with the Red Sox, was announced as the first base starter, took the field, absorbed a final ovation, then handed the job over to Travis Ishikawa before Matt Cain start the game. first throw. Snow received a pro-rated portion of the major league minimum wage of $390,000 at the time, which amounted to $2,131.
“It’s a good statement of how we feel about him,” then-general manager Brian Sabean said at the time. “He’s one of the most popular players and one of the truest professionals we’ve had in uniform.”
Unlike Snow’s farewell, Romo’s final appearance will not appear in official baseball stats. Although the original pitch had Romo signing a one-day deal, the 40-man slots are still most valuable in the days leading up to the season opener. So concocting the NRI contract and Bay Bridge series appearance will be a way for the Giants to salute Romo and give their fans a time to remember without complicating their roster plans as they make their final selections for the opening March 30 at Yankee Stadium.
Romo, informed that left-hander Scott Alexander currently wears number 54, said he didn’t want or need his old number.
“I promise I’m not trying to take anyone’s place,” he said. “I’m telling you right now, I’m not coming here to make a team. I can’t be part of this team at the moment. Above all, I don’t try. I like where I am in life, seeing my children as often as possible. I made a home here (in San Francisco).
“For most of my career, especially my days with the Giants, I struggled to find a home for myself. I would go back to Brawley and it didn’t feel right. It was good to be home and around my parents and immediate family, but I had to leave after a few days. It was like I was supposed to be somewhere else. And now, being here, I don’t feel like I have to leave. I have what I need here. I have what makes me feel good here.
“So coming full circle means a lot. Hunter (Pence) has to do it. Pablo (Sandoval) had the chance to do so. Matt Cain, he had the chance to play his whole career in one place. So it’s a lesson in humility. I’m not trying to be too inappropriate, but it’s drugs, you know? »
Romo doesn’t know what to expect. He just knows that the emotions will flow.
“The one thing I don’t want to do and I’m afraid to do is end up crying,” he said. “I don’t know emotionally how I’m going to feel. Not only by running but… by walking.
“If we all had to write down on a piece of paper a dream scenario, like, ‘This is what you want to happen’, I still couldn’t have written it as well as it happened. In all aspects.
“Giant forever. You hear that, always giant. And for me, that’s what happens. I want to say that. Grateful forever. Legitimately, that’s what happens.
(File photo of Romo in 2014: Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press)