Reds starter Sal Romano pitches against the Padres on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. David Jablonski/Staff

Romano makes his best pitch to secure spot in rotation

Sal Romano is pleased with his spring and the real prospect that he will win one of the open jobs in the Reds’ starting rotation.

Romano makes his final Cactus League start Friday against the Texas Rangers. The timing of it with the usual four-days rest would place his next start on March 28 which is the off-day before the season starts. It puts him in line to start the fourth game of the season, if he’s chosen to fill the starting rotation.

The 24-year old power pitcher has 16 Major League starts. He has pitched 12 innings in four Cactus League starts, allowing four runs. More importantly, he walked just two batters while striking out 15. He also pitched in a controlled environment to get stretched out with 5.1 innings. He struck out six and walked one in that outing.

Romano had a 5-8 record with a 4.45 ERA. He walked 37 batters in 87 innings. Romano would like to reduce that number.

“I’ve improved by attacking the strike zone,” Romano said. “I’ve been moving the ball, in and out. I’m not giving in to hitters. I’m showing I’m not scared out there and will really attack them in order to get them out. I’m not walking people and letting guys get themselves out.”

The philosophy is simple. The implementation is not.

“It’s not as simple as it sounds,” Romano said. “There are some of days when you just don’t have it. You don’t have a good feel of the strike zone or you don’t have your best stuff. You have to find ways around that. Luckily this spring I felt good every time out. Hopefully, I can improve on that and have another good start and make this club. I’ve worked really hard with Devin (Mesoraco) and Tucker (Barnhart) to build off last year.”

Getting around days without your best stuff is the reason winning teams prefer experienced starters.

“We are hoping, our young guys build off the experience they had last year,” Bryan Price said. “We want to see how they attack the strike zone. Can they pitch without their best stuff.”

In the last week, the Reds have lost Anthony DeSclafani to injury. Brandon Finnegan has been delayed by injury. They were expected to be in the starting rotation. Michael Lorenzen was competing with Romano, Tyler Mahle, Robert Stephenson, Amir Garrett and Cody Reed for the fifth spot originally. Lorenzen also is injured.

That presents a possible opening for Romano.

“I’d be lying if I didn’t say that it would be nice to have a starting rotation in tact, that we anticipated being there,” Price said. “We’ve been in this situation before. We’ll deal with it. We’ll hit the ground running with what we have. I think what we do have is good.”

Price singled out Romano and Mahle for being ahead of the other candidates. Nothing has been decided but Romano is confident that he has performed well enough to win a job.

“I feel like I’ve shown what I’m capable of doing,” Romano said. “I can help the team in whatever way possible.”

Romano is aware of the competition but welcomes it.

“Overall, as a team it’s going very well,” Romano said. “We’ve played better down the stretch. Pitching wise, we had a lot of guys coming into camp ready to go. We are excited to start the season. A lot of guys have made a good impression to Bryan and the front office to show that they belong on this team. It’s out of my hands at this point. Whatever happens, I’ll be ready.”

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