The first time Seth Romero threw a baseball again, months after he had undergone Tommy John surgery in August of 2018, it did not go well.
“I’m pretty positive that all my first five throws went straight into the ground,” Romero, 24, told reporters.
His first thought after spiking those initial post-Tommy John throws?
“Yips,” he said. “Thought I had the yips already.”
Two years removed from surgery on the ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow, Romero made his MLB debut on Thursday afternoon in Flushing, Queens, NY’s Citi Field, where the Washington Nationals, who drafted the pitcher out of the University of Houston in the first round of the 2017 Draft, 25th overall, dropped the series finale with their NL East rivals.
Romero threw 43 pitches to the New York Mets, coming on in relief of starter Austin Voth just hours after was added to the Nationals’ major league roster. It had been two years of rehab and workouts with the team since he’d competed in an official game.
He’d never been pitched above Low-A in the Nats’ system, but the pitcher manager Davey Martinez said earlier this week was fearless, was added to the roster when veteran reliever Sean Doolittle went on the Injured List, and thrown right out there in his first game.
Romero threw a fastball that sat 91-93 MPH, a slider, 81-83 MPH, and changeup, 83-84 MPH, and he got seven called strikes, and five swinging strikes, with Ks from four of the 11 batters he faced in 1 2⁄3 IP overall.
He gave up back-to-back, one-out singles in the fifth, then a two-out walk, and a grand slam on a 0-2 changeup up in the zone outside to Mets’ catcher Tomás Nido that went out to left.
Romero started Nido off with a changeup low though over the middle of the plate, followed it up with a fastball up and in that Nido missed, then left the 0-2 change up.
“I wanted to get the changeup down like I did the first one I threw to him,” Romero said, “... but kind of just got under it, pushed it up there, gave him a good pitch to hit.”
“He has swing and miss stuff,” his manager said after the 8-2 loss to the Mets.
“Seth [Romero] has worked extremely hard to get to this point in his development and has put himself into consideration for a potential opportunity to help our Major League club.” - #Nationals’ Asst. GM Player Development Mark Scialabba to @DaytonVaDriver: https://t.co/8FXkWm4Bmi— federalbaseball (@federalbaseball) August 13, 2020
“His stuff plays. I like it. He threw one bad changeup to Nido, other than that I thought he threw the ball really well. Nervous. He was really nervous. His heartbeat was going 1,000 miles an hour, but he’s going to be okay.”
“Oh, I was 100% nervous for the first one,” Romero admitted, “but after the first few throws, I kind of settled in, but right off the grip, yeah, for sure, definitely nervous.”
He got out of the fifth after the grand slam, and came back out in the sixth, walking two and striking out two before he was replaced on the mound.
“I thought with all of the lefties coming up that that was a good spot for Romero,” Martinez said when asked how he chose the spot to bring the lefty out of the bullpen. “I thought he threw the ball good. His first outing in the big leagues, got the early strikeout, and then the walks, I told him, I said, ‘The walks is what — you’re up here, you walk one or two guys, the next guy, these guys can all hit, so just throw strikes. That’s all I ask is you throw strikes.’ He was nervous, but like I said, when he did throw strikes he had a lot of swings and misses. It was nice. He’s got good stuff.”
“I felt good on the mound,” Romero said. “I mean, things happen, so I didn’t really think about [the grand slam] too much, and just tried to focus about the next pitch.”
Having gotten his first taste of major league action, the southpaw said he was eager to get back on the mound.
“Honestly, I don’t even really think that I’ve processed it yet. But I can’t wait to get back out there on the mound again for whenever they need me and I’m excited.”
Seth Romero hadn't pitched in a pro game since 2018.— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) August 13, 2020
He had never pitched above High A ball.
Today he was added to the roster, made his @MLB debut and struck out 4 batters in 1.2 IP.@sethromero21 // #NATITUDE pic.twitter.com/Go4iacxtCp
Davey Martinez called Seth Romero into his office in the visitor’s clubhouse in Citi Field on Thursday afternoon to deliver big news. Romero was being added to the big league roster.
But before Martinez could tell the 24-year-old lefty, he said he needed him to do something.
“I brought him to the office right before the game, and one, he had a pair of earrings in, and I just told him, ‘First and foremost, the earrings got to go. And, secondly, congratulations, you’re going to pitch for us.’ And you could see it in his face. He was elated. I told him, I said, ‘Hey, be ready to go today, because you’ll probably end up getting in the game somehow today. But congratulations, I know you can do this, and just go out there and have fun.’ And he looked good. I joked around with him on the mound a little bit, can’t tell you what I said, that’s in the circle, but I got him to laugh a little bit.”
“He just pretty much called me in and he said, ‘First things first, take out your earrings,’” Romero recounted.
“I didn’t even realize I still had them in, but after that he just kind of told me what was going on for today.”