Well-Traveled Lefty Romero Lands in St. Louis

After being released three times last season alone, left-handed relief pitcher J.C. Romero is joining the St. Louis Cardinals for 2012.

We have seen time and time again that left-handed relievers with a pulse have enjoyed long major league careers. Several of the players the St. Louis Cardinals tried last season fit that description, including Trever Miller, Brian Tallet (both traded by St. Louis and released by Toronto) and Arthur Rhodes (released by Texas and signed by St. Louis).

A new name has followed them for 2012 as the Cardinals have signed lefty J.C. Romero to a one year contract. The likelihood was first reported by Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports on Wednesday with confirmation by the club on Thursday afternoon. The AP reports Romero's base salary is $750,000 with an equal amount possible via bonuses. He made $1.35 million last season.

The 35-year-old had a whirlwind 2011, but not in a positive way. He was released three times last summer alone. He began with Philadelphia, passing through the Washington and New York Yankees organizations (minor league appearances only) in rapid succession before ending with Colorado. Romero appeared in a total of 18 Triple-A games with the latter three organizations.

Early in the season, Romero spent time on the disabled list with a strained right calf. The Phillies let him go after he did not want to remain in the minor leagues after being designated for assignment. He later requested his release both from the Nationals and Yankees when he was not added to the major league rosters by set dates. He was sent down by Colorado, but made it back to the majors when rosters expanded in September.

Romero's major league numbers last season between Philadelphia and Colorado included 19 strikeouts and 15 walks in 24 2/3 innings. His ERA was 4.01. Both last season and over the entirety of his 13-year MLB career that began with Minnesota in 1999, Romero showed he can handle left-handed batters, but not righties. In fact, it grew worse last season as his career OPS difference of about 200 points between the two splits almost doubled to near .400 last year.

2011 46 14 5 0.231 0.318 0.231 0.549
Career 1102 243 113 0.216 0.312 0.289 0.601
2011 70 5 10 0.322 0.429 0.508 0.937
Career 1779 277 259 0.269 0.383 0.429 0.812

As the data indicates, Romero faced right-handed batters 60 percent of the time last season and was hit around soundly by them. He also issued far too many free passes, a career-long problem.

On the positive side, left-handed batters did not connect for an extra base hit all season long. Further no baserunners attempted to steal against Romero in 2011 and he yielded just one home run.

Selecting spots in which opposing managers will be reluctant to pinch hit for their left-handed batters will be Cardinals manager Mike Matheny's challenge in trying to effectively utilize Romero. The other left-hander in the 2012 Cardinals pen is expected to be Marc Rzepczynski, more capable of handling multiple batters from either side of the plate.

Romero, a Puerto Rican native, was first signed by the Minnesota Twins in the 21st round of the 1997 draft and remained with them through 2005. He has also pitched for the Angels and Red Sox.

Romero was suspended for the first 50 games of the 2009 season after testing positive for androstenedione in August 2008. As a result, he filed a civil lawsuit against a nutritional supplement manufacturer whose owner served time in federal prison for distributing steroids as part of the BALCO investigation.

"I purchased an over-the-counter supplement that I was told and believed would not cause me to test positive," Romero said in a January 2009 statement. "These events have hurt me deeply and placed a cloud over my career, accomplishments and family. It is my hope that I can finally start to put this event behind me and protect the interests of others who rely on manufacturers and retailers to be honest about their products."

With the signing, the Cardinals now have 38 players on their 40-man roster.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Look for his weekly minor league column during the season at FOXSportsMidwest.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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