Four years after the Nationals drafted pitcher Seth Romero in the first round of the MLB Draft, the left-hander is getting a chance to prove he can still be a starter. The team promoted him to Triple-A Rochester on Tuesday with the hope of seeing how he fares as a starting pitcher.
“As of right now, I would like for him to be stretched out and start,” Nationals manager Davey Martinez said in his pregame press conference Tuesday. “We can always do something else but I would love for him to continue to start and stay in the rotation and build him up.”
It’s been a tumultuous four years for Romero, who joined the Nationals after being dismissed from the University of Houston for “conduct detrimental to the team.” Washington invited him to participate in spring training the following year but he was sent home for violating team rules, reportedly a result of curfew violations.
Then came the injuries. Romero sat out most of his first professional season due to the spring training incidents, making just seven starts. He returned in 2018 only to make another seven starts before an MRI revealed a partial tear in the UCL of his throwing arm. Romero then underwent Tommy John surgery and missed the entire 2019 season rehabbing the injury.
With the coronavirus pandemic forcing the cancellation of the 2020 minor-league season, Romero spent most of the campaign at the Nationals’ alternate training site in Fredericksburg, Virginia. He did get called up for his big-league debut as a reliever, but it was short-lived as he made only three appearances. It was looking like he would have his first normal offseason in years until he fell down a flight of stairs and broke his hand, requiring surgery.
Romero returned for a rehab start July 1, made three starts for Single-A Fredericksburg and then reported to Double-A Harrisburg, where he posted a 5.31 ERA in six starts. The Nationals were encouraged by his strikeout numbers as he compiled 50 of them in 31 2/3 innings. In Rochester, he’ll now have the opportunity to find his groove against more advanced hitters.
The Nationals’ rotation both this year and beyond has several spots up for grabs. Both Stephen Strasburg (thoracic outlet syndrome) and Joe Ross (elbow) are out for the rest of the season. Patrick Corbin is owed more than $83 million over the next three years but has a 5.44 ERA since the start of 2020. Only Josiah Gray, whom the Nationals acquired at the trade deadline, figures to be a lock to enter the 2021 season in the rotation.
Washington hopes Romero can make a case to be in contention for one of those spots as well. He entered the 2017 draft considered to be one of the best raw talents available, only for the questions about his character allowing him to fall to the Nationals at No. 25. Four years later, Washington is finally about to find out whether he can still tap into that potential.