Cincinnati Reds: Not so Big Sally up for any role on pitching staff

Slimmed down Sal Romano aims to find a spot among crowded group

Big Sally isn’t as big as he was last year and that’s a good thing.

Cincinnati Reds right-hander Sal Romano’s personal challenge over the winter was to lose weight. By eating right and working out he lost 28 pounds.

The next challenge? Find a spot on the Reds’ crowded pitching staff.

The Reds brought in starting pitchers Sonny Gray, Alex Wood and Tanner Roark to join Luis Castillo and Anthony DeSclafani in the rotation to usurp a role Romano had last season.

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Romano, 25, was a starter in his first 19 appearances. In that role, he built a record of 7-10 with 5.48 ERA, logging 131 1/3 innings. Romano pitched in relief twice around the All-Star break but was placed in the bullpen for good in August. He had a 1-1 record with a 3.77 ERA in 14 relief stints, covering 14 1/3 innings. Romano started 16 games in 2017 with a 5-8 record and 4.45 ERA.

The competition for the rotation isn’t the challenge for Romano. It is improving every day and proving he can help the team in either role.

“I wouldn’t say they are challenges,” said Romano, who pitched a scoreless inning in his spring debut Sunday, a 14-2 Reds’ win over the Los Angeles Angels. “Those three guys bring in a lot of experience who can really help this ball club out. It is up to me to learn as much as I can.”

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“He is in such a good spot right now, just being himself,” Reds manager David Bell said. “He worked really hard this winter and got himself in great shape. He is right on track. He came in really ready to go. He is one of those guys we want to build up a little bit, more than one inning, two to three innings by the end of spring. We’re excited about where he is.”

Romano, Cody Reed, Robert Stephenson, Brandon Finnegan and Tyler Mahle will be stretched out to either start in Louisville or work out of the Reds’ bullpen.

“I see it as a positive for them,” Bell said. “You never know the path, especially early in your career or how things are going to work out. We are opening up an opportunity to see them in a different role. With Sal we want to keep the options open. We see them helping us a lot this year.”

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That’s fine with Romano, who is working on his curve ball and hiding the ball better in his side sessions.

“I’ve said it before,” Romano emphasized. “I’m here to pitch whenever I get the ball. I believe there is a spot on this team to do whatever. I’ve shown that I can do both so I’m up for the challenge whatever it is (and) whenever David gives me the ball.”

Romano has risen through the Reds’ system since he was drafted in the 23rd round in 2011. During that time, the same system and the same minor league pitching instruction was in place. This season is different. Bryan Price, Mack Jenkins and Ted Power have given way to Derek Johnson and Caleb Cotham.

Hearing new voices could be challenge or another opportunity.

“It is always good to hear a different voice,” Romano said. “I’ve always been a guy who likes to listen to a coach to try things out. Sometimes you don’t think things are for you but you’ve got to be willing to try. You can always improve your game. You try things if it works for you, then use it. If it doesn’t move on to something else.”


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