San Francisco Giants

Sergio Romo still trusts stuff, himself

Sergio Romo Hector Sanchez 3

Sergio Romo is a relatively simple pitcher. He became a reliever in 2006 with the Augusta GreenJackets, and from there he worked his way up through the organization before reaching the pinnacle in 2012, when he closed out Game 4 of the World Series for the San Francisco Giants. He’s made his money and his name with a “no-dot slider,” a pitch that he’s thrown with unbelievable consistency throughout his career.

As a person, Romo is as complicated as they come. There’s the cute, cuddly Romo with the infectious smile who stars in TV commercials and catches first pitches. Then you have the defiant Romo, the one who pitches and lives with a chip on his shoulder.

After recording a save yesterday for the first time since June 22, Romo sat at his locker in the corner of the Giants clubhouse. With his right elbow wrapped in ice and one foot up on his locker, Romo reclined in his black leather chair and fiddled with his phone.

When asked whether he enjoyed doing his trademark celebration after the final out of a Giants victory, Romo’s defiance rose to the surface.

“I’ve pointed my finger up to the sky every time I pitch, regardless of what inning,” he said.

“I just got a chance to contribute in the ninth. It happened to be the ninth. I wouldn’t read into it or anything. It is what it is. I got my name called and I was able to get the job done. It was pretty cool.”

Romo was in no mood to celebrate, and it’s not like he got his old job back. Bruce Bochy said after the game that he has “a couple guys” who he’s comfortable using in save situations, and Santiago Casilla’s recent three-game stretch (one earned run allowed in each appearance) doesn’t erase the roughest stretch of Romo’s career.

The Giants’ “June swoon” was also Romo’s — from June 13-28, Romo allowed nine earned runs and 10 hits in five appearances (4.1 innings). He collected two shaky saves in Arizona, two devastating losses to the Rockies and three blown saves in the process. His slider, which allowed him to thrive in a role generally suited for much bigger, stronger pitchers, wasn’t fooling anyone.

After a move back to where he used to thrive — the eighth inning — Romo quietly started looking more like himself again. Yesterday’s two-out save was his eighth straight scoreless outing, and he’s collected at least one strikeout in each appearance. Yesterday Romo said the turnaround is all about command, and he wasn’t referring to balls and strikes.

“In a sense I stopped trying to control everything. I can’t control the outcome. I can’t control much out there other than how I’m prepared and how I execute my pitches. That’s what I’ve been trying to focus on. I trust my stuff, so it’s good to be able to contribute,” said Romo, who never lost faith in his money pitch.

“I really don’t feel that I lost any stuff at any point this year,” he said.

“I feel that it’s really come down to one pitch every time – every time that it’s gone wrong, every time that it’s gone not so great, it’s really been about one pitch. If I’m able to focus and execute that one pitch consistently, good things can happen and I’ll put myself in a better chance to be able to do well. I trust myself and I’m trying to stay focused on executing and kind of let the rest be.”

With so much at stake — a Giants season that can still be saved, and a contract year that would look an awful lot better if Romo finishes the year as the closer — the test will be maintaining that trust. That win or lose, as long as he throws his pitches the same way he always has, good things will come. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

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