GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Most pitchers, especially those as accomplished as Sergio Romo, wait their whole careers for a crack at free agency. Romo couldn’t wait for the process to be over.
Romo knew he had to be patient with a Giants front office that put all other business on the back burner while chasing Pablo Sandoval, Jon Lester and James Shields, but he said Monday that his patience was “wearing thin” as the weeks went on. He had offers from other teams, including some that came with the ninth inning, but he kept hoping a reunion with the Giants was in the works.
“I just didn’t want to go anywhere, guys. I really didn’t,” Romo said after making his spring debut. “During that dead time, it’s hard to wait. It’s like, we can get this done in five minutes, for real. Call me up.”
The final call came just before Christmas. Romo had stayed in touch with the front office once the season ended and pitching coach Dave Righetti checked in periodically to see how Romo was handling free agency. On Dec. 22, the Giants announced a two-year, $15 million deal for Romo. He knew he had made the right decision when his phone started buzzing with text messages from teammates.
“It would have been really hard for me to start over somewhere else,” Romo said. “There’s a lot of history here.”
Romo knows the Giants and the Giants know all that Romo brings. He can have the occasional blip against left-handers — his second pitch Monday was a sinker to Brennan Boesch that didn’t sink and went for a homer — but has consistently been one of the best right-handed relievers in the game. The Giants will need plenty of Romo this season in a division now stacked with right-handed power, and he said he’s up for the challenge.
Known for his devastating slider, Romo is working on taking the same mental approach with his changeup. He wants to just grip it and rip it, as he does with the slider. Monday’s outing, Romo felt, was a good starting point. He has battled a sore shoulder this spring but now appears on track to be ready for Opening Day.
“It’s good to be back and get some adrenaline pumping, it’s good to hear your name announced,” Romo said, a big smile on his face. “It felt good. I’d like that sinker to sink … one of them got hit well but it’s spring training, so you get it out now. I was really pleased with the way iI felt. I felt mechanically sound and my timing was good. I was really pleased with today.”
Romo threw 11 pitches, giving up the homer and then getting a grounder, flyout and strikeout. He expects to again pitch in a game in the middle of the week, keeping the progression going.
The Giants have Romo set to be their eighth-inning star again, hoping the Romo-Santiago Casilla pairing is as deadly as ever.
“It’s been our strength the last few years -- the job the bullpen has done -- and he’s been a big part of that, whether he’s closing or setting up,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s a guy that’s comfortable pitching with the game on the line.”
After weeks spent rehabbing, Romo was so excited to get the fourth inning Monday that he practically skipped out of the clubhouse in the morning, yelling, “They’re letting me pitch today!” He peaked his head into the manager's office and had a quick chat with Bochy before heading for the team bus.
The pressure of a walk year is gone. So, too, is the pressure of picking his next home. Romo threw his head back and laughed happily as he talked about the fact that he has now spent a decade with the organization that took him in the 28th round of the 2005 draft, and he's locked in for two more years.
“Here I am, still a Giant, after 10 years,” he said. “That’s the cool part about it. After 10 years in the minors and the big leagues, I must be doing something right.”