Acquired from Tampa Bay in a February trade for minor league right-hander Jeffrey Rosa this winter, left-handed reliever Enny Romero came to Washington, D.C. with a reputation for throwing hard and struggling with his command.
General Manager Mike Rizzo talked after the deal about what kind of pitcher the Nationals were getting.
“He’s a -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,” Rizzo told MLB Network Radio hosts Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette, who watched Romero pitch for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic and came away impressed.
“He’s got a three-pitch mix,” Rizzo added. “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  years old, at the minimum is a good get for us.”
Romero, who was out of options (which was part of the reason the Rays dealt him) tossed 8 2⁄3 scoreless this Spring, walking three, striking out six and holding opposing hitters to a .071 AVG in Grapefruit League action, and made the Nationals’ Opening Day roster.
He made his Nats debut last night with the Nationals ahead 6-2 and promptly hit Derek Dietrich in the elbow with a 98 mph fastball.
It was the second HBP on Dietrich in the game (though he does tend to hang out over the plate), and the 12th HBP on the Marlins’ infielder in 41 career games against the Nats.
Dietrich was not happy, jawing at Romero on the way to first base.
Miami Marlins’ skipper Don Mattingly got ejected for arguing with home plate umpire Ron Kulpa after the pitch, not because he thought Romero hit Dietrich intentionally, but because he went out to argue, in spite of Kulpa’s warning to stay in the dugout, that the warnings for both teams were unwarranted.
“We got hit three times and we got a warning,” Mattingly said after the game. “That doesn’t seem quite right.”
“Again, we get hit three times and they issue a warning. So, I didn’t quite understand that, but that’s okay.”
“First pitch, I want to throw out over the plate,” Romero told reporters after the game, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.
“I hit Dietrich, but it’s not on purpose. I don’t want to hit the first batter of the inning.”
Romero gave up a single to right in the next at bat, but got a double play grounder out of Miguel Rojas and a swinging K from Dee Gordon with an 0-2 fastball to end a relatively quick, 11-pitch frame.
He came back out for the eighth and gave up a home run and a single before he was lifted for Joe Blanton, who recorded two outs, gave up a single, and handed the ball over to Oliver Perez, who finished off the inning.
So what did Baker think of Romero’s debut with the Nationals?
“He threw the ball great,” Baker said. “We took him into the second inning because he had pitched two innings in the WBC. And so as long as he throws strikes, that’s what we were most concerned about. And he was throwing strikes with his fastball and with his breaking ball.”
And the home run?
“When you catch up to that fastball, much like Aroldis Chapman, that ball goes a long way because he’s providing the speed and the distance by the velocity of his fastball.”
Romero averaged 96.6 mph with his fastball and hit 99.3, throwing 9 of 11 for strikes and mixing in a slider and cutter (one of which went out).
We talked about Romero’s outing, the Nationals’ second straight win and more on Nats Nightly after the game: