Romano Rolling

Sal Romano had a rough outing in his high-A debut this season, but he’s come back strong since and is now sitting on a sub-three ERA. Friday’s win over Clearwater was his third of the season and he’s still worthy of attention despite playing in a system that is already rich with pitchers atop their list of top prospects.

Daytona maintained its divisional lead on Friday with a 2-1 win over visiting Clearwater. The game tied their series at one apiece and raised the Tortugas’ record to 18-11. Early it appeared that they would cruise when they scored in both of the first two innings, but they would not cross the plate again in the contest, fortunately that would be all they needed.

The first run came quickly when the their first batter, Phillip Ervin, led off with a double and scored on a single by the next hitter, Alex Blandino. Taylor Sparks scored an insurance run that would be needed when he reached on an infield single in the second inning and came around on a Joe Hudson double. Base runners were scarce for Daytona who had six players stroke one hit each without any walks.

The Tortugas won despite being outhit 10-6 because of Sal Romano’s job navigating around eight hits while allowing only one run in six and two-thirds innings. He picked up the win while striking out five Threshers and walking only one. Joel Bender relieved him to finish the seventh and start the next frame; he allowed a couple of runners, but neither scored as he struck out a couple. El’Hajj Muhammad entered to induce a double play that ended the top of the eighth and tossed one-plus scoreless innings to lower his ERA to 1.38 before Nolan Becker got the final out for his first save of the season.

The outing took Romano’s ERA under three and improved his record to 3-1. He got roughed up in his first start of this season, but since hasn’t allowed more than one run in the next five. He’s shown good command thus far by striking out 25 hitters in 31 innings while walking only ten against older competition. Last year he finished his second season at Dayton and made a nice improvement when he lowered his ernie by more than a half run over the previous season and reduced his walk rate by more than a third. He also has an impressive WHIP thus far in 2015 which is now down to 1.16.

It appears that Romano is becoming the pitcher that Cincinnati had hoped when they took a flyer on him with a 23rd round selection in 2011. He was named Connecticut’s high school player of the year and would have gone much earlier, but he had already enrolled at the University of Tennessee where it was expected he would pitch collegiately. However, that plan was derailed when the Volunteers changed coaches and the Reds offered a $450,000 bonus. Now it appears they have a solid high-A pitcher from that investment and potentially an MLB career in their rotation.

One doesn’t have to look very long at this prospect to see why he would stir up interest because he can run his fastball up into the mid-90’s coming from a 6’4”/250# physique. He was only seventeen when Cincinnati signed him and didn’t pitch professionally until the next year at Billings. At that time his needs for improvement were similar to many young prospects, to develop his game on the mound with a smoother, more repeatable delivery and off-speed offerings. He’s made nice progress with a curve that’s impressive at times and he’s working on a changeup.

The right-hander is now in a position to earn a promotion to AA by the end of the season, though he’s still only 21 years old and there’s no reason to rush him. His stuff projects him as mid/top rotation at best with a floor of a power reliever out of the pen. For now he’ll focus on his game at Daytona and continue to be a big reason for the new Cincinnati affiliate to challenge for a league title.

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