When the Cincinnati Reds were going through “The Rebuild (TM)”, much of the success and failure of that stretch was the reliance on the farm system to produce starting pitching. Robert Stephenson, Amir Garrett, Brandon Finnegan, Tyler Mahle, and Sal Romano were the guys the organization was counting on to produce and get them to where they wanted to be. Things didn’t quite work out that way for the organization. It’s led to new pitching coaches and instructors and philosophies throughout the entire organization. Only Mahle remains a starting pitcher from that group. Over the weekend, Romano learned that he had made the team as a reliever.

Out of options, Sal Romano knew coming into spring training that he was competing for a job. His spring numbers on the surface don’t look great. His ERA was 6.48 in 8.1 innings. That is not a good look. But all six runs he allowed came in two games. Three came in his first outing of the spring on March 1st against Oakland. And then three more came on March 21st against Chicago. All three runs in that game against Chicago weren’t really on him, though. A ball that was lost in the sun went for a hit that directly led to three runs that wouldn’t have happened had the routine fly ball been caught. Removing those runs from his statline would have given him an ERA of 3.24 on the spring to go with 11 strikeouts in 8.1 innings.

His last outing against the Cubs went well, firing a 1-2-3 inning with a strikeout. It was a good ending to spring training that had been going well for him outside of a lost fly ball in the sun in his previous outing.

“It was great,” Romano said of the outing. “Velocity wise, sharpness of my slider, the way the ball was moving – I was just able to put it all together. Kind of had a little bad luck this spring when it comes to the sun, spring training numbers – you’ve got to look through that sometimes and watch the game and understand it – those types of things happen, it’s spring training for a reason. When it comes to stuff wise, confidence, how I feel on the mound, I feel like everything is really there. Arm felt great, velocity was good, I just truly do feel like I truly put things together.”

It wasn’t really until 2019 that Sal Romano made the move into the bullpen. That happened in Triple-A Louisville, where he made 38 relief appearances (and five starts). That transition year was a bit up-and-down, inconsistent if you will. He would spendsome time in the big leagues that year, making 12 appearances out of the bullpen. His strikeout rate went up from where it had been as a starter, but he was still allowing hits and runs at a higher rate than you’d like to see.

In 2020 we didn’t get to see much of Sal Romano on the mound. Most of his time was spent at the alternate site. He made two appearances for the Reds, throwing 1.1 perfect innings.

“I really do feel like I’m not the same pitcher as I used to be,” Romano said. “Confidence wise, the way I throw, the arsenal I have – I really think things are sharp right now. I’m really looking forward to putting things on display and help this team win any way that I can.”

One of the differences in his arsenal is his slider. He noted that it’s a little bit different now than it has been in the past.

“I think mostly working on the side during my catch, and taking it serious,” said Romano about where his success in camp had come from. “I realized I had a different grip on my slider. I think it’s become a lot more sharper. I know it’s been pretty hard, but still being able to throw it for a strike, a little less velocity – kind of flip it in there. I just think attacking the strikezone, try to limit the walks, try to get as many quick outs as possible.”

In the past, the right-hander’s slider worked in the 86-89 MPH range. It will be interesting to see both the velocity that it has this season, as well as movement that it has compared to the slider he had thrown in the past. In terms of value, Fangraphs has the pitched graded out as above-average for his career in the big leagues, but it’s been hit-and-miss, with both 2017 and 2019 having the pitch below-average, while in 2018 it was above-average. In 2020, of course, the data is meaningless as he faced all of four batters in the big leagues.

23 Responses

  1. RojoBenjy

    It would be great if the Reds catch a few breaks this season with pitchers like Big Sally breaking out

    • Grand Salami

      They’ve invested for a return in such areas. Big Sal, Sims, a refurbished Dolitle, Antone, and more.

      It’s not unreasonable to expect more development from Reds pitchers than the avg MLB club, IMO.

  2. DaveCT

    In the televised game this spring when we last saw him, I thought Romano’s stuff looked really different. Even though he hung a couple, the slider was breaking hard and in to left handed hitters while the fastball was running hard in on right handers. I hadn’t seen that from Sal before, he of the turbo charged sinker earlier in his career. As some may remember, I’m a fan as Sal lived a couple towns over from my former home in CT, same town as Dibble, Carl Pavano, and Chris Denorfia. Dude is massive.

  3. James

    Does anyone really think Ramano earned his spot in the
    Reds bullpen?!

    • burtgummer01

      He’s never been good but he’s cheap

      • RojoBenjy

        His stuff has been good. Now it seems he’s adding some smart—pitching it not just chucking it

  4. James

    Jesse Biddle should of got the spot in BP. Amir Garret is our only lefty, if we add Biddle we would have two trustworthy relief pichers.
    Adding Ramano is not a very smart decision. When Lorenzen comes back Ramano will probably go down to Triple AAA. I guess David Bell is getting desperate for a good BP.

    • MBS

      Doolittle and C. Perez are both lefties.

      • Doc

        Sort of negates James critical comments, doesn’t it?

  5. MBS

    15 pitchers, These are the guys that made the team, or will once they come off the IL. *Fulmer I don’t think he’s been announced either way.

    O option(s)
    Romano, Hoffman, Bedrosian, Fulmer*, Doolittle, Sims, Garrett, Miley, Lorenzen, Gray

    1 option(s)
    De Leon, C Perez

    2 option(s)
    Mahle, Castillo

    3 option(s)

    1 or 2 of these guys with 0 options maybe on thin ice, once Gray and Lorenzen come back. It could be the 1 option guys C. Perez, and De Leon, but I think the team will want the flexibility of sending relievers back and forth between Louisville and Cincy.

  6. MK

    I can remember when I got to know Sal in Dayton I read in a couple publications that he was projected as a big league reliever. I was disappointed because I knew he wanted to be a starter and thought he was pretty good at it by being a two time Midwest League All Star.Glad he made the team as he is a quality kid.

  7. Sliotar

    “The Rebuild” (TM) … great stuff, Doug. Made me chuckle.

    That’s a good warm-up for the return of the RLN Game Thread … only 2 days away. Many of the funniest comments all year here come out in them.

    (Romano is a 23rd round pick, been with the Reds since 2012. It will be quite the story if he sticks in Cincinnati now, and has a good season).

    • DaveCT

      Sal and Garrett were just a pick or so apart, and were given much higher bonuses than the typical players drafted in the 20th rounds.Pretty sure Sal was committed to agood program such as Tennessee.

      • Doug Gray

        If I recall correctly Sal was literally moved in on campus at Tennessee before the Reds made their final offer that he accepted.

        And yeah, Sal got 2nd/3rd round bonus money to sign. The rules were different back then in how much money you could spend (there were no limits or penalties).

      • Lynne

        You are 100% correct. Salvatore was committed to and taking summer classes at University of Tennessee when the REDS made their offer. He has worked very hard these past few years to transition from a starting pitcher, that he had been forever, to a bullpen pitcher. And he has figured things out!! Grateful to those of you who have continued to believe in him and his abilities!! We will never stop believing in him!! F.O.E.

      • SyracuseScott

        Just give Sal the ball. The kid is ready to blossom now that he has a role on this team. I can’t imagine how tough it had to be for him going from starter to reliever to starter now back to the pen. I have seen how determined and focused he is. This will be a great year for Sal!

  8. Doc

    They had to lure Garrett away from basketball. Don’t often hear the chronic FO critics giving credit for Garrett.

    • DaveCT

      They played their cards exactly right, giving Amir the chance to do both, pursuing his young man’s dream of the NBA, until he made a career decision (the correct one at that).

      • 2020ball

        Shrewd move by the FO at the time, Garrett was seen as impossible to sign and the Reds found a creative way to make it happen.

    • Redsfan4life

      I have saw Garrett play basketball. He 100% made the right choice to play baseball.
      He was playing SG/SF he wasn’t a very good shooter. He had a 0 chance of going any further in his basketball career than the College level.
      That isn’t taking anything away from him at all. Very few are good enough to play high level Div.1 basketball like he did.