Throughout baseball, contenders are desperately searching for bullpen help. The Athletics may be able to find that in their own system, from an unexpected source.
Miguel Romero has made so much progress this year that he is nudging his way toward consideration for a promotion to the big leagues. The 6-foot, 202-pound righthander has shown consistent improvement with his fastball command as the season has progressed, and that will be critical as he continues to develop.
“He’s gotten better each month,” A’s minor-league pitching co-ordinator Gil Patterson said. “He has continued to reduce his walks, and he has learned to throw breaking balls when he is behind in the count.”
Romero began the season throwing both four-seam and two-seam fastballs, but Patterson and Triple-A pitching coach Rick Rodriguez convinced him to scrap the four-seamer and focus on his dynamic two-seamer, which slithers in at 95-97 mph.
“It’s like a fish swimming in the ocean. It moves all over,” said Patterson, who grades the two-seamer as a 70-grade offering on the 20-to-80 scouting scale.
Romero supplements the pitch with two breaking balls that grade a little above average—an 88-89 mph slider and a big, 84-85 mph curveball that can act as something of a changeup. He still needs to work on the subtle skills of pitching, such as controlling the running game, but that is to be expected from a pitcher who has come so far, so fast.
Romero signed shortly before spring training in 2017 as a 22-year-old refugee from Cuba, then visa issues forced him to remain in the Dominican Republic for most of the season. He took off in 2018, splitting the year between high Class A and Double-A before the Athletics made the decision to challenge him by pushing him to Triple-A Las Vegas this season. He has responded with rapid improvement in every facet of the game, posting a 4-1, 3.54 record and a 1.37 WHIP through mid-July.
“He’s a good kid and he wants to learn,” Patterson said. “He picks things up quickly. It’s hard to believe that two years ago this time, he was with the Dominican-League Athletics.”
— RHP James Kaprielian has been working with the A’s coaches to alter his delivery, and his velocity has improved to the 93-94 mph range, Patterson said. Kaprielian continues to recover from a series of arm injuries.
— Outfielder Luis Barrera underwent surgery to his right shoulder to repair damage sustained in a slide back to the base. The lefthander had been placed on the 40-man roster this season and hit .321 with 11 triples in 54 games for Double-A Midland.