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Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo on Enny Romero and his 80 fastball

Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo talked about Enny Romero in an MLB Network Radio interview on Thursday and the lefty’s impressive outings in the WBC.

World Baseball Classic - Pool C - Game 5 - Dominican Republic v Columbia Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Dusty Baker shared an anecdote earlier this Spring about how Washington Nationals’ reliever Enny Romero was a target for the Nats as far back as 2014.

“I heard he was a guy that we had coveted before we got [Felipe] Rivero,” Baker told reporters, referring to the February 2014 deal with Tampa Bay that sent right-handed starter Nate Karns to the Rays in exchange for Rivero, 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.”

We dug up that quote after watching Romero light up the radar gun in his first WBC outing for the Dominican Republic last week.

The Nationals, who traded Rivero to Pittsburgh in the deal that brought Pirates’ closer Mark Melancon to D.C. last July, did end up acquiring Romero from the Rays this winter, in a trade that sent 21-year-old right-hander Jeffrey Rosa to Tampa Bay.

Romero touched triple digits with his fastball in a scoreless frame against Colombia in his World Baseball Classic debut, and followed that up with another impressive outing in which he retired both of the batters he faced.

MLB Network Radio hosts Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette watched Romero live in the WBC and when they got an opportunity to talk to Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo in an interview on Thursday, they wanted to know where Rizzo found the lefty and what it cost to acquire the 26-year-old southpaw?

“We gave up a Dominican player [Rosa] that we signed last year,” Rizzo said. “Young Dominican with a good arm, high upside, but a long way away from the big leagues.

“We had scouted Romero for years, when we made the Lobaton trade he was a guy that we really wanted in that trade, we couldn’t get.

“So we’ve been on him for a long time, when he became available we felt that it was a guy that we really liked.

“He’s a [26]-year-old guy that we feel with a few tweaks can find the strike zone more consistently and when he does, you saw the stuff, he’s got a three-pitch mix, one of the pitches is an 80 fastball, and he’s got a good breaking pitch when he throws it and I think he’s got the ability, swing-and-miss stuff and a guy that we feel at [26] years old, at the minimum is a good get for us.”

The Rays traded Romero, who struggled, 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 in 2016, because he was, “... out of options [and] was in danger of spring DFA,” as Tampa Bay Times’ writer Marc Topkin wrote, and they needed a spot on the 40-Man roster after signing Logan Morrison.

Rizzo acquired Romero, the hard-throwing left-hander he and his front office staff had been watching for a few years and gave Baker another left-handed option in a bullpen that already featured both Oliver Perez and Sammy Solis.

Rizzo talked about all the relievers in Spring Training with the Nationals right now, and the potential closer candidates later in the MLB Network Radio interview: