Athletics

Romo earning role, utilizing pitches in successful A's season

Athletics

When Sergio Romo began sporting the green and gold after signing with the Athletics this offseason, he immediately made his presence known.

As the 2021 MLB season continues, Romo again finds himself in a significant role in a veteran-laden bullpen, and is able to give his teammates a breather.

“Yeah, I mean he’s pitched himself into this role, and it allows me to get [Yusmeiro] Petit a bit of a break which I’m trying to do as well with the amount of appearances that he has,” A's manager Bob Melvin said on Thursday night following the A’s 4-1 win over the Seattle Mariners. “But now he’s getting lefties out, he’s always gotten righties out, he gets the middle of the order tonight in the eighth inning is his job. You know, he’s pitching like he’s pitched years ago and a lot of it just comes with confidence because you don’t throw 95 mph and everyone’s looking for your slider.”

Romo’s boasting a 3.82 ERA with 38 strikeouts in 35 1/3 innings this season and opposing batters aren’t hitting anything hard off of him. He’s in the top one percent of the league with hitters averaging just an 84 mph exit velocity off of his pitches. 

In addition to his colorful personality, Romo’s slider began to make an impact on the rotation the moment he walked onto the field at the A's spring training complex in Mesa, Ariz. He even showed starter Chris Bassitt how to throw it -- a pitch Bassitt has been trying to add to his arsenal for years.

 

“He saw me struggling in the backfields, getting mad with the slider, and he just kind of showed me his pitch grip and I was like ‘Dang this is funky, but I really like it,' and it’s kind of just blossomed from there,” Bassitt said back in March. 

Romo had made a 14-year career out of living off the slider. Now, he’s finding ways to use his other pitches. The slider itself is being used almost 10 percent less this season than it was used in 2020. 

Catching him also is different. A’s catcher Sean Murphy has built a strong reputation with the club developing smart game plans for each pitcher. But being on the receiving end of Romo’s delivery is … unusual.

“It’s great and it’s unique,” Murphy said Thursday. “He’s not going to overpower anybody, but just his ability to manipulate the shapes on all his pitches, and he’s a pro’s pro and he goes out there and he knows exactly what to do to guys.”

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Murphy added Romo made some adjustments earlier in the year to make the slider less predictable. Going back to the drawing board added to Romo’s success. 

“The way he’s pitching now is way less predictable than he was earlier in the season when he was just predominantly using his slider,” Melvin added. 

After two seasons in Minnesota, Romo has become an imperative part of the A’s bullpen.