San Francisco Giants: Sergio Romo Crossing Enemy Lines?

San Francisco Giants’ great Sergio Romo may be crossing enemy lines, as he reportedly has agreed to a deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The third member of the San Francisco Giants’ “Core Four” out in the bullpen is gone, as Sergio Romo has reportedly agreed to a deal with the Giants’ hated rivals, the Los Angeles Dodgers. With Jeremy Affeldt retired and Santiago Casilla with the Oakland Athletics, Javier Lopez is the only Core Four member left on the market, though he appears headed for retirement.

Romo was the longest-tenured member of that quartet, having made his debut with the Giants back in June of 2008. Among current Giants, only Matt Cain had been with San Francisco longer, as 2017 will be his 13th season with the team. Romo’s ascent is remarkable considering his humble beginnings in the sport.

The diminutive right-hander was picked in the 28th round of the 2005 draft by the Giants out of Mesa State College in Grand Junction, Colorado. He was the 852nd player picked in the draft. At any given time, there are 750 players spread out between the 30 teams’ 25-man rosters. Enough players were picked ahead of Romo to fill every single spot on every team’s 25-man roster throughout the league, with over 100 players to spare.

That didn’t stop Romo. The young man from Brawley, California signed and he succeeded almost immediately. His first two minor league seasons were spent mostly as a starter, and he did quite well. But it wasn’t until his third season in the system that he was moved to a relief role and had dramatic success.

Pitching for the High-A San Jose Giants in 2007, Romo put his name firmly on the map. He pitched to a 1.36 ERA and 0.754 WHIP, held opponents to a .155 batting average, and struck out 106 batters in 66.1 innings. MLB.com named Romo the High-A Relief Pitcher of the Year, and the Giants would go on to win the California League Championship.

He skyrocketed through the system the next year, shooting through Double-A and Triple-A before making his big league debut in June. From there, he became one of the best in the game.

Over nine years with the Giants, Romo made over 500 appearances and built his reputation as a gutsy pitcher that was going to beat opponents with his pitch. And with that pitch, the famed “no-dot” slider, there weren’t many better than Romo.

A 2.58 ERA, 0.955 WHIP, 10.2 K/9, and 5.6 K/BB all headline Romo’s stellar resume. He was an All-Star in 2013 when he saved a career-high 38 games. Five times in nine years he struck out more than 10 batters per nine innings. Only four players (Gary Lavelle, Christy Mathewson, Greg Minton, and Carl Hubbell) pitched in more games for the Giants than Romo.

Of course, he threw one of the most memorable pitches in recent Giants’ memory. In the 2012 World Series, with the Giants on the cusp of clinching their second World Series in three seasons, it was Romo on to pitch the 10th inning. San Francisco held a one-run lead, and Romo mowed through Austin Jackson and Don Kelly to start the inning, striking out both swinging. That left Romo to face Miguel Cabrera, the best hitter in the game at the time.

With a 2-2 count, Romo looked in and got his sign from catcher Buster Posey. Everybody was looking for a slider. But Romo didn’t throw the slider. He instead threw a fastball, 89 miles per hour, and locked up Cabrera. All the eventual AL MVP could do was watch as the ball came to rest in Posey’s mitt, home plate umpire Brian O’Nora called it strike three, and the celebration began. Legend has it that Cabrera is still looking for the no-dot slider after all these years.

Romo has the “guts of a burglar”, as Giants’ broadcaster Mike Krukow would often say, and no pitch proves it more than that fastball.

2016 didn’t end the way he, the team, or the fans wanted. Romo was part of a bullpen that failed time and time again to hold leads, and though he didn’t blow a save during the regular season, he blew one in game three against the Chicago Cubs and couldn’t get an out in game four. Of course, we all remember how game four ended.

It began to seem like there was a divide between the pitcher and his team this offseason. The Giants didn’t offer Romo a contract, and Romo was very vocal in stating as much. Romo had a couple of incidents where it seemed he was showing up his manager on the mound, and maybe the team felt it was just time to move on and get younger. That was probably the right way to go.

This is not the first time Romo has been linked to the Dodgers. He, of course, grew up a Dodger fan, following in his father’s footsteps, and was rumored to be interested in signing with the team during his last stint in free agency during the 2014-2015 offseason. The Dodgers reciprocated that interest, but Romo ultimately returned to San Francisco on a two-year deal worth $15 million.

Romo’s deal with the Dodgers was reported as agreed upon by Jon Morosi of Fox Sports, but according to Jon Heyman, things aren’t quite official. The notorious “mystery team” is still bidding for Romo’s services. The right-hander is currently pitching in the Caribbean Series for team Mexico, so an answer may have to wait for a little while. But right now, all signs point to Romo heading over to the Dark Side.

A player going from San Francisco to the Dodgers is not a foreign concept, and has happened with somewhat regularity in recent years. Among pitchers, the most notable names are Brian Wilson and Jason Schmidt, and both had their careers derailed by injuries in Hollywood. A bad shoulder forced Schmidt into an early retirement, while Wilson had troubles with his elbow and ego that prematurely ended his MLB career.

But if put in the right situation in the Dodgers’ bullpen, Romo probably still has something to offer. He won’t need to be a closer with Kenley Jansen in the fold, so he can go back to his most successful role and right-handed specialist. Then again, the Giants might be losing Romo at the right time. His batting average against and on-base percentage against righties were the worst he’s posted since 2009, while the slugging percentage was higher than any season before.

Either way, good luck to Sergio Romo. Maybe hang a slider or two against the Giants.

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