Sergio Romo doesn’t know for certain what his role will be on the Marlins.
It could be anything. And that uncertainty thrills him.
Romo, the 35-year-old reliever the Marlins signed Friday to a one-year contract, won three World Series rings as a traditional, late-inning reliever for the Giants before stepping into a cameo role last season with the Rays as an “opener.”
That is, Romo made five starts, pitched an inning, and turned the ball over to someone else. Call it closer in reverse. And the Marlins might employ the same strategy with Romo and others this season.
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“The new ideas they’ve got for me is exciting,” Romo said. “I’m very outside the box myself. There’s fun ideas here. It could be opening. It could be closing. It could be any situation [in innings] one through nine.”
The Marlins acquired Romo, a veteran of 11 major-league seasons, to inject experience into a young bullpen. Romo has appeared 643 games and saved 109 of them.
But the Marlins have other, nontraditional plans for Romo, using him as a Swiss Army knife of sorts. He might start. He might close. He might be used in the seventh inning, or the eighth.
“He’s been a guy who can do a number of things,” manager Don Mattingly said. “As the game evolves, you have to be open-minded to be willing to do different things. [Romo] gives us versatility. He gives us more options late in the game, early in the game, allows us to use guys in different ways.”
That doesn’t mean Mattingly intends necessarily to use the “opener” strategy frequently. For that matter, Mattingly said it has not been a major topic of discussion in strategy meetings.
“It’s not a big talk in our camp that we want to do this three days a week, or two days a week,” he said. “We feel that we’re going to have starters we feel like are best served to be normal type starter. But I think you have to be open during the course of the season to do different things depending on what’s going on with your rotation, and where the bullpen is.”
Romo is open to new ideas.
“They talk about walking that straight line, and I don’t think I’ve seen a straight line in my life,” Romo said with a laugh. “I don’t see what it would change now. It’s some pretty cool ideas.”
It was in Anaheim on May 19 of last season that the Rays revolutionized the game by tapping Romo to start.
The strategy was hatched due to the Rays’ shortage of traditional starters and the top of the Angels’ lineup, which was stacked with right-handers. Romo, a right-hander who held right-handed hitters to a .197 average during his career, was informed of the decision two days in advance.
“At first, I didn’t really believe it,” Romo said.
Romo worked the first inning, striking out the side, before handing the ball over. He opened four more times for the Rays, but still did the vast mount of work in relief, appearing in 68 games out of the bullpen.
“We want that juice he brings,” Mattingly said of Romo’s high energy level.
Mattingly said that when he managed the Dodgers, he dreaded seeing the Giants bring in Romo.
“He’s pretty irritating, honestly,” Mattingly said. “He gave our right-handers fits. He’s got that slider. It’s a different slider. He’s got a number of sliders. He can make it do different things. He’s got one that kind of balloons on you. He’s a tough look.”
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