The Joe Nuxhall Memorial Honorary Star of the Game
There are several pitching prospects in the Cincinnati Reds system that are rated higher than Sal Romano, and rightly so given their pedigrees and past performances. As such, Sal gets overlooked rather often when we talk about the future of the team's pitching staff.
Romano got the ball for a pair of innings in Cincinnati's first Cactus League game of 2017, however, and promptly showed that we should probably give him a bit bigger spotlight.
Facing a San Francisco Giants lineup that featured regulars like Brandon Crawford, Joe Panik, Brandon Belt, and Hunter Pence, Romano and his upper 90's fastball bulled through a pair of scoreless innings on Friday, fanning 4 in the process. He allowed just a lone hit, and while he walked a pair, he never truly looked out of control while on the bump.
Romano's overall 2016 numbers in AA Pensacola were more good than great, but over his final 11 games he tossed 70 innings of 1.93 ERA ball, holding opponents to just a .517 OPS with a stellar 62/8 K/BB ratio. It was that flipped switch that has him back on the radar for the Reds, and while it's likely he'll start the year in AAA Louisville, today's outing might suggest he's truly turned the corner for good.
Honorable Mentions are due to: Alejandro Chacin, who tossed a perfect inning of relief - the only such perfect inning from a Reds pitcher on the day; Arismendy Alcantara, who doubled and scored; Jose Peraza, who singled, drove in a run, and swiped a bag; Tony Renda, who tripled and scored; Aristides Aquino, who 'singled' and drove in a run; Patrick Kivlehan, who drove in a pair on a high-chopping single; Barrett Astin, who K'd a pair in his scoreless inning of work; and Rule 5 pick Stuart Turner, who singled and coaxed a walk.
- The sun rose on Friday, February 24th, and there was Cincinnati Reds baseball to be played.
- The Reds stepped right up against Giants’ ace Madison Bumgarner, and proceeded to show him just how rusty he was in the Top of the 1st. Alcantara smacked a 1-out liner into LF, and beat out a throw to 2B to turn it into a crafty double. Alcantara moved over to 3B on a Scott Schebler groundout, Adam Duvall followed with a walk and a steal to put runners on 2B & 3B, and after Bumgarner hit Jesse Winker with a pitch, Kivlehan poked a single into LF to score a pair. Reds led, 2-0.
- Those Giants, though, are quite pesky. Peskiest of the bunch is RF Hunter Pence, and Pence proved peskiest of the pesky with a double to the wall in LF in the Bottom of the 1st that scored pesky Joe "Pesci" Panik to get San Francisco on the board. Reds led, 2-1.
- It's impossible to talk peskiness around the Reds without mentioning Renda. On cue, he spanked a triple to get the Reds rolling in the Top of the 2nd, and he later scored on a bloop single off the bat of Jose Peraza. Reds led, 3-1.
- Things remained calm until Wandy Peralta took over for the Reds in the Bottom of the 5th. A leadoff walk haunted after back to back singles from Jimmy Rollins and Gordon Beckham drove home walkee Trevor Brown. Wandy wiggled out of further trouble, and the Reds led, 3-2.
- By the Top of the 7th, both teams had pretty well emptied their benches, and the Reds' junior squad took advantage. Hernan Iribarren smacked a 1-out single to get a Red on-base, and he moved to 2B when Gabby Guerrero bucked his family trend by not swinging at a ball outside the zone (and instead taking it for ball four and a walk). That left two on for Aquino, who smacked a laser past SS Orlando Calixte to drive in Iribarren. Reds led, 4-2.
- The Giants clawed one run back in the Bottom of the 8th, as Wynton Bernard scored on a wild pitch after having doubled to the wall in LF and advancing to 3B on a different wild pitch. Reds led, 4-3.
- Kevin Shackleford came on for the Bottom of the 9th to get the save for the Reds. Or, at least that's what he was trying to do. Instead, he walked Calixte to begin the inning, and after allowing a single to Christian Arroyo to put the winning run on-base, Chris Marrero launched a massive 3-run dinger over the wall in LF to flip the scoreboard and give the win to San Francisco. Reds lost, 6-4, but whatever...baseball is officially back.
- The Reds routinely employed some pretty heavy shifts throughout this game, as the Giants' broadcast booth noted throughout the game.
- Romano is huge and throws dang hard. His delivery somewhat reminds me of when you dared throw a dodgeball at the big kid in your class, missed him, and he vengefully wound up to throw his ball back at you.
- The Reds will open their home slate of Cactus League games tomorrow, as they'll host cross-complex rival Cleveland. Amir Garrett will get the start for Cincinnati on his quest to break camp as a member of the starting rotation, and he'll be opposed by Cleveland starter Ryan Merritt. First pitch is set for 3:05 PM ET.
- Merritt, by the way, wears jersey #69. Nice.