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Romo brings hard-nosed attitude to closer's role

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 6C
Last Modified: Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013 - 8:29 pm

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Sergio Romo toed the rubber at Scottsdale Stadium and glared in at Pablo Sandoval, his first opponent during a live batting practice session Tuesday.

Around the cage, throughout the outfield and up and down the dugout rail, teammates and coaches felt a chill on a hot afternoon in the desert.

Romo's last pitch to a hitter was also to a Venezuelan third baseman. It was a fastball to Detroit's Miguel Cabrera, right down the middle, and it clinched a second World Series title in three years for the Giants. That save cemented Romo's role as the Giants' closer moving forward.

Just don't tell that to the closer.

"I'm real proud to be the last one standing," Romo said. "But I've still got a lot of work to do to justify that call."

Romo said his mentality is no different this spring: He's still fighting for a job. But manager Bruce Bochy doesn't plan on calling an audible.

Romo won the ninth-inning job while compiling 14 saves and a 1.79 ERA last season, his second straight with an ERA under 2.00. He cemented the role in the postseason, finishing nine games, including the finales of all three series.

Asked which moment was his favorite, Romo listed four: the three series clinchers along with the night the Giants clinched the National League West. Each of the victories was punctuated with Romo's signature fist-pumping celebration, and the Giants hope to see plenty more of the move this season.

The coaching staff will watch Romo closely, and Bochy said he could back off occasionally if the team thinks Romo's workload is too heavy. But Romo, for the first time as a big leaguer, will enter the season as the go-to guy in the ninth inning.

Bochy doesn't anticipate any physical issues as Romo balances his preparation with a stint representing Mexico in the World Baseball Classic, but the manager did say he would sit down with Romo at some point to discuss the mental aspect of shutting the door.

"It's going to be critical for him to – as we say with great closers – have a short memory," Bochy said. "Wash it off. With his makeup and personality, he's going to take it hard (after a blown save). You've got to put it behind you."

Romo, who plays with his heart on his sleeve in good times and bad, said he would count on the lessons he learned from conversations with his predecessor, Brian Wilson, last year. He also has spoken with former Giants closer Robb Nen but said it's the support shown by his current teammates that will be the biggest factor in bouncing back from any rough outings.

"I don't like to be the guy who lets anybody down," he said. "They kind of made me feel like, 'Get it to Romo, and then it's over.' That made me feel like a million bucks every time I got the ball. If I lacked any confidence or faith in myself, I wouldn't be able to do that."

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