Dusty Baker told reporters last month that he heard hard-throwing left-hander Enny Romero was a target for the Washington Nationals during the negotiations with the Tampa Bay Rays back in February of 2014.
“I heard he was a guy that we had coveted before we got [Felipe] Rivero,” Baker said, referring to the trade that sent Nate Karns to the Rays in return for Rivero, (who was dealt to Pittsburgh last July), catcher Jose Lobaton and minor league outfielder Drew Vettleson.
“[The Rays] wouldn’t give us Romero, I heard,” Baker continued.
“I wasn’t here, but I heard that we wanted Romero first and then Rivero second, and they didn’t want to give up Romero and they ended up trading us Rivero.”
The Rays ended up trading Romero, who was out of options, to the Nats last month, in a deal for 21-year-old righty Jeffrey Rosa, when they needed to clear room on their 40-Man Roster.
Romero, 26, signed with Tampa Bay out of the Dominican Republic in 2008 and made his MLB debut with one start in 2013.
He’s worked exclusively out of the bullpen since, with 75 appearances in 2015-16.
Over three seasons and 80 1⁄3 innings pitched (75 2⁄3 as a reliever), the southpaw has put up a 5.27 ERA, a 4.09 FIP, 45 walks (5.04 BB/9) and 81 Ks (9.07 K/9), with opposing hitters putting up a .267/.356/.407 line against him in his relief appearances.
Romero has averaged 95.7 mph with his fastball in the majors, but batters have a .283 AVG against the pitch thus far. He went to the Dominican Winter League after posting a 5.91 ERA, a 4.79 FIP, 28 walks (5.52 BB/9) and 50 Ks (9.85 K/9) in 45 2⁄3 innings for the Rays last season, and told Washington Post writer Jorge Castillo he felt he hit his stride during the postseason in the DWL.
“That was my best stretch ever in the Dominican [League], in the playoffs,” Romero said.
“I put up my best numbers. I was able to work and improve on my pitches and get a lot of important outs in the playoffs.”
Romero impressed his new manager early this Spring, with Baker telling reporters, “He has an electric arm,” after watching the lefty throw an early bullpen session.
Romero left for the World Baseball Classic earlier this month, and he made his first appearance for the Dominican Republic on Sunday, retiring three batters in a quick, dominant, 14-pitch, 10-strike frame in which he averaged 98.5 mph with his heater.
Romero topped out at 100.1 mph, a mark he never reached last season, as MLB.com’s Darren Willman noted on Twitter, after Romero had hit 99.8 mph on the previous pitch:
Enny Romero pumping 99.8 MPH... He didn't throw any pitches that hard last season.— Daren Willman (@darenw) March 12, 2017
His scoreless frame came in the bottom of the 10th inning of the Dominican Republic’s 10-3, extra-inning win over Colombia, and Romero ended up earning the decision when the “visitors” scored seven runs in the top of the eleventh.
Will Romero, who, again, is out of options, earn a spot in the Nationals’ Opening Day bullpen, giving Baker three left-handers to work with along with Oliver Perez and Sammy Solis?
If he can throw strikes consistently like he did Sunday night, he could, in theory, replace what the Nationals lost when they traded Rivero to the Pirates for Mark Melancon last July.
Enny Romero bringing the ... (1/2) pic.twitter.com/CgAtpbAz5X— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) March 12, 2017