SCOTTSDALE -- Sergio Romo’s rough outing in the Giants’ 18-3 loss to the Mariners on Saturday -- he faced five hitters and retired none of them, allowing three hits and two walks, including one with the bases loaded -- was the latest in what has so far been a rocky spring for the Giants closer.
In four outings, Romo has allowed 11 hits and 12 runs (11 earned) in three-plus innings for a 33.00 ERA. One explanation being offered is that Romo hasn’t thrown his signature slider in a game yet -- he’s focusing on controlling his fastball and changeup.
Romo himself said as much at his locker this morning. He said he has thrown the slider in side sessions, but just hasn’t used it in game action -- and he doesn’t have any set plan for when he’ll start mixing it in.
"It’s there," Romo said of the slider. "I’ve been throwing it. It’s not like I haven’t been practicing it or any of that. I don’t need to throw it in a game for me to sit there and say I’ve got it."
Right now, Romo said he’s "working on what I feel I need to work on," which means the fastball-changeup combination. Pitch data on the analytics website FanGraphs shows that Romo threw his changeup 6.5 percent of the time last season, when he saved 38 games for the Giants but had a career-low 8.65 strikeouts-per-nine-innings rate and career-high-tying rate of 7.9 hits-per-nine innings.
"That’s the reason why I’m trying to use it, so that I can be more of a complete pitcher," Romo said. "Not so that I can use it more, but it’s so that I have it so when I do need it I can go to it. I’ve got to find ways to keep progressing."
Romo said he has "always been confident" in the changeup but wants to get a more consistent feel for the pitch.
He didn’t say this, but it’s also possible Romo is trying to limit the amount of stress on his arm early in spring after four consecutive seasons of 65 or more appearances.
Either way, Romo said his early numbers aren’t something he’s paying attention to, even though a four-digit ERA has a way of jumping off the page.
"I feel like I’m making progress, I feel like I’m throwing the ball well," Romo said. "I ain’t worried about the stat line."