Drayer: New Mariners RHP Sergio Romo not shy about sharing his experience, passing it on
Although the Mariners will likely carry just one reliever who has played in the big leagues for less than a year on their opening day roster, Scott Servais believes that even a bullpen that grew together and accomplished much in 2021 can absolutely benefit from a true veteran presence.
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Thursday morning, that veteran walked through the clubhouse door bringing 14 years of big league experience and all the ups, downs, adjustments and transitions that come with it. Then there is the matter of the three World Series rings.
Mariners sign 3-time World Series champion reliever Sergio Romo
“Anytime you can add that kind of experience, it’s huge,” Servais said of new Mariners reliever Sergio Romo. “He’s just been through so much. More than anything when those guys sit in the bullpen there’s always the discussion. Why are we doing this? Why are we doing that? Sometimes there’s a guy who says does it really matter? It helps.”
On Friday, Romo, who had been working out with the Mexican team that holds his rights – “I’m 39, so it’s not like I can just jump off the couch” – threw his first bullpen for the Mariners. His path to the team, a short one.
“It took just one phone call,” he said with a smile, noting that he had heard from teams with interest but no offers.
“Jerry said, ‘Hey, we want you, here’s what we can give you,’ and I said yes!”
In the Mariners, Romo saw what he wanted. An opportunity to play and an opportunity to win.
“West Coast, being on a team that has a legitimate shot to win, that’s expecting to win. What more can I ask for, being a West Coast guy?” he said. “At this stage of my career, there’s a couple of things left. Enjoy my time playing as long as I have in the league and to win. I’m excited for this, I really am.”
While many players will cite opportunity to win in their decisions to sign with a team, being a member of the Oakland A’s, who were absolutely battered by the Mariners in 2021, gave him extra insight to the team he was joining.
“Too many losing battles. I remember that,” he said. “What stood out was their resiliency. They have got a lot of fight in them. Young guys who are trying to prove themselves. Establish themselves yet prove themselves as men also. It was impressive to watch because it was never an easy task. (In) 12-13 in a row (against the Mariners) we just couldn’t beat ’em. It gets frustrating after awhile, but as the saying goes, ‘can’t beat ’em, join ’em.’ So it’s kind of why I am here. They earned my respect by the way they play. They don’t got to say much, they just play.”
It’s a style of play that Romo can identify with. It was funny to actually hear from him, a player that you have seen for years, know things about like numbers, track record, he has a beard. Other than that, however? He hasn’t said much outside the clubhouse. Inside the clubhouse, it’s a different matter. Brought up in the game under the likes of Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez, Matt Cain and Jake Peavy, he’s not shy about sharing his experience, passing it on.
“It’s not even about teaching them how to win. It’s teaching them how to be themselves,” he said. “To give themselves the best opportunity to present themselves. To give themselves the best opportunity to present their best. I am real big on self respect, self knowledge, being able to tell yourself the truth. Learn from the day before whether it’s a good day or a bad day.”
“It’s a different mindset,” he continued. “That’s just kind of what has helped me out in my career is being myself. I’m nobody else but me. If I can go out and just be that every day then it presents it’s own value. They can find a place for me anywhere if they know what’s coming their way. So here I am, season 15. I’m not saying if they follow me or do exactly they are guaranteed to win or not but I do feel it does give us a good shot to win on a daily basis.”
There was nothing preachy in anything Romo had to say, rather the honesty that comes with the rare journey of a 15-year big league career as a reliever. There was a different energy about him both in the media room and clubhouse that someone finally described as “he’s happy.” He knows who he is, he’s doing something he loves, and he sees an opportunity to be of impact.
“It took me time but it also took time around these big leaguers watching them,” he said. “The way they made me feel visible is the way I want to make these young bucks feel visible, too. It’s a great accomplishment to make it to the big leagues. It’s an even greater accomplishment to establish yourself and stay.”
Of course, the baseball itself impacts the ability to stay and Romo has been able to adjust and adapt, despite owning one of the lowest fastball velocities in the game.
“He is still kind of striking them out at a good rate,” said Servais. “He can find a way to get them out. Just try and put him in the right spots is critical. When we acquired Joe Smith last year, we really spent a lot of time on where does he fit best. I thought he did a nice job and I hope Romo can do the same thing.”
“I don’t have overpowering stuff, but I am crafty in the same mindset,” said Romo. “I’m not going to overpower you, but I am going to come at you with everything I have.”
Experience plays a big role in this. Being able to anticipate what the batter is trying to do going well beyond handedness, but knowing where he stands in the box, when he starts his swing, nuances that are not in the scouting reports, Romo gives himself a chance to be crafty. It’s not who he has seen, it’s how he sees them.
“People can tell you he will throw you 12 sliders in a row, but I am like, yeah, ask the hitter how many were the same slider,” he said with a wicked grin.
The 85 mph fastballs and sliders everywhere are coming. Romo figures he will need to throw a couple more bullpens, get two or three in, and be ready to roll. In the time between, he’s got other work to do.
“I think this generation is more ‘see it to believe it’ and I know there’s been somewhat of a drought here with the Mariners, so I would like to change that,” he said. “I’d like to show them believing. If I have got to bring my rings in or put on videos of myself because even myself I didn’t really believe until it happened. Yeah man, it’s fearless, you have got go at it. Who wants it more? Who’s hungry? At the end of the season, who wants to be the last one standing, for real? Most people say they want it. The grind takes away from it. It’s a marathon of a season. The way I think I feel that I can challenge these guys, throw some concepts, plant some seeds in their head that it can grown into something nice here.”
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