Miami Marlins

How the Miami Marlins use Sergio Romo could impact how pitching staff is assembled

Miami Marlins have ‘exciting’ ideas for Sergio Romo

The Miami Marlins signed relief pitcher Sergio Romo on Friday, Feb. 15, 2019
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The Miami Marlins signed relief pitcher Sergio Romo on Friday, Feb. 15, 2019

The multiple facets of Sergio Romo’s life can be seen simply by looking at the tattoos that cloak his upper body.

His left arm shows his faith and “reminders of who I am,” including bible verses, song lyrics and his sons’ names (Rilen Serge Romo and Rex Ryder Romo).

Juxtaposing that is his right arm, which is “more demonic than anything” and has representation of the masks he has worn in his life — the joker and the gunslinger among them — while also paying homage to the fact that “everyone has skeletons in their closet.”

His back has his heritage, a blending of the United States and Mexico flags symbolizing a man who was “born in the states with Mexican parts.” Romo is of Mexican heritage but was born in Brawley, California — about 20 miles from the United State-Mexico border.

“It’s just my story,” Romo said, noting he has spent close to 60 hours at tattoo parlors over the years.

Romo’s story — and his 12th year as an MLB pitcher — continues with the Miami Marlins. And how the Marlins decide to use him this year could ultimately determine how they put their pitching staff together.

The 36-year-old who describes himself as an “out-of-the-box” person embraces the chance to be used in out-of-the-box ways on the field after serving different roles over his career as a reliever with the San Francisco Giants (2008-2016), Los Angeles Dodgers (2017) and Tampa Bay Rays (2017-2018).

The Rays experimented with him at times last season as an “opener,” essentially a reliever starting a game and pitching an inning or two before turning the game over to a long reliever or a traditional starter. Romo had mixed results in his five games in that setting, posting scoreless outings three times but giving up four runs in the equivalent of one inning of work in the other two starts.

The Marlins have not ruled out using an opener this year, which could allow them to start some of their younger pitchers competing for spots in the stating rotation — Trevor Richards, Caleb Smith and Pablo Lopez, among them — in the bullpen. That would give them extra time to build up stamina for longer outings and the grind of a full 162-game schedule.

Romo also has extensive experience as a closer, racking up 109 career saves, including 75 during a three-year stretch with the Giants from 2012-2014 bookended by World Series titles with an All-Star nomination sandwiched in between. Mattingly said the Marlins likely won’t have a traditional closer this year, but Romo is a prime candidate for late-inning work along with Adam Conley and Drew Steckenrider.

He also has experience as a middle-inning reliever who can throw multiple innings if needed.

“He’s done just about everything you can ask a guy to do,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said.

Regardless of how the Marlins choose to use Romo — they have three weeks of spring training left to determine that — he has a proven track record over his professional career. Romo has a career 2.86 ERA and averages close to five strikes per walk.

In two spring training appearances so far, Romo has yet to give up a hit, struck out five of the seven batters he faced and has walked just one.

He credits the fast start to playing in the Mexican Pacific League this winter with the Charros de Jalisco, which won the league title. Romo made seven appearances, posting a 2.70 ERA over 6 2/3 innings while striking out nine and picking up four saves.

More importantly for Romo, though, it gave him an early opportunity to improve his secondary pitches. He worked on his change-up location so he can maximize it against both left- and right-handed pitchers, which would allow him to mix it in with his slider.

It also allowed him to continue pitching with emotion and feeling the game-like situations after the Rays’ season ended last year.

“Those are things you can’t practice,” Romo said. “For myself, it’s not that I came in 100 percent ready, but I feel like I came in a step ahead.”

This and that

Lewis Brinson had his second multi-home run game of spring training in Monday’s 9-8 walk-off win over the Washington Nationals. Brinson is 7-for-16 with five home runs after seven games this spring. Isaac Galloway had the game-winning RBI single with the bases loaded in the ninth.

Other notable performances Monday: Pablo Lopez threw three scoreless innings in relief, giving up just two hits. ... Wei-Yin Chen was pulled early in the third inning of his second start. He gave up five hits and four earned runs. ... Brian Anderson hit a pair of doubles. ... Miami had a five-run sixth inning, its largest single-inning performance of spring to this point.

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Jordan McPherson covers the Miami Marlins and high school sports for the Miami Herald. He attended the University of Florida and covered the Gators athletic program for five years before joining the Herald staff in December 2017.