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Fernando Romero Is Open To Any Role

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Minnesota Twins

Since signing Fernando Romero as a 17-year-old, the Twins have tried to help him develop another elite pitch to go along with his upper-90s fastball and upper-80s slider, but the organization has only had moderate success. During the righthander's seven-week audition in the Twins' starting rotation last summer, however, Derek Falvey realized there might be another course of action.

“When you watch him pitch, you see the first few innings and you think, ‘Wow, that could be pretty special in the bullpen,’ “ said Falvey, the Twins’ chief baseball officer. “Developing a third pitch, adding some more variation to his repertoire, that’s going to be important if he’s a starter. In the bullpen, it’s less of a factor.”

The Twins haven’t decided whether to shift one of their best starting pitching prospects to the bullpen, and the 24-year-old Romero will spend spring training—at least initially—competing for opportunities at the back of the rotation. But while starting jobs are mostly spoken for on the Twins’ staff, the bullpen has some vacancies—including, in all likelihood, in the most visible role a reliever can have.

“Could he be a closer? That’s getting ahead of ourselves. But I’ll say his pitch selection fits the profile,” Falvey said. “Most good major league bullpen arms, even closers, were starters along the way.”

Changes in how pitchers are used has made the thought of converting a potential 180-inning starter into a 75-inning reliever more palatable, said general manager Thad Levine.

“Is he better than any [relief] pitcher we could possibly acquire on the [free agent] market or in a trade?” asked Levine. “There is such a high appreciation and appetite for top-flight relievers right now, and his potential capability in critical situations is so conspicuous, it’s a real debate.”

Romero pitched 15 shutout innings before being scored upon when he debuted in the majors last May, but the league gradually caught up with him. After posting a 1.88 ERA in his first five starts, that number ballooned to 7.67 over his last six. The Twins were alarmed enough by Romero’s regression that he wasn’t recalled in September, a decision that the rookie admits took him by surprise.

Asking him to move to the bullpen would be another shocker, Romero said, but he’s leaving that up to the Twins.

“Any job they want to give me, I’ll take it,” Romero said. “It’ll be exciting, no matter what.”

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