The Giants will sign Sergio Romo and give him a chance to pitch — and say goodbye

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — No major-league pitcher has climbed the mound at the Giants’ waterfront ballpark in more games than Sergio Romo. He soaked up the cheers in as many of his 268 regular-season appearances as a critical member of the bullpen on three World Series championship teams. But it was his four extra appearances as visitors that made him truly understand where home was.

“I never got booed — even when I showed up in a Dodger uniform,” Romo said. “They are so passionate. They didn’t see the shirt I was wearing. They still saw me. That’s really the best way I could put it: I just appreciated how visible my teammates, the fans, everyone made me feel. Maybe they helped me feel visible to myself. I knew I was doing something right. I knew I was home.”

And now, six years after throwing his last pitch as a Giant and embarking on a free-agent odyssey that took him to the Dodgers and Rays and Marlins and Twins and A’s and Mariners and Blue Jays and Monclova in the Mexican League , Romo is ready to call it a career. He is ready to come home.

But first he gets ready to pitch again.

The Giants and Romo have agreed to a minor-league contract that will include an invitation to major-league camp. He is scheduled to travel to Arizona on Friday and, pending a physical, will arrive at Scottsdale Stadium to find a locker containing a Giants uniform. He will not dress with the coaches and special assistants. He will be folded into the clubhouse among his new teammates.

If all goes according to plan, the Giants will work with Romo to build his conditioning and arm strength to appear in an exhibition game or two, including the March 27 Bay Bridge exhibition finale against the A’s in San Francisco. The 40-year-old right-hander would jog to the mound to the frantic Banda beat of “El Mechón” one more time, break off a pair of his sweeping sliders and bring an end to one of the most remarkable careers in Giants history.


“When they approached me, it was, ‘You never know, you might catch lightning in a bottle,'” Romo said. “And I said, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa, I’ll be honest with you guys, I haven’t done anything since September.’ There’s no lightning in this bottle, believe me. You’re not going to find that. But I know I’m going to try to cut loose when I’m out there. I might actually be nervous for a change.”

Romo’s fearlessness was as much a hallmark as his signature slider, making him a relief pitcher ahead of his time in a game that has gravitated more and more to throwing specialization out of the bullpen. No pitch he threw in his career was more audacious or emblematic than the otherwise benign 88-mph fastball in 2012 that froze Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera to clinch the Giants’ World Series championship in Detroit.

Romo came from a small town between the Salton Sea and the lettuce fields of the Imperial Valley. He stood a generous 5-foot-10 in his spikes. He pitched at places like Arizona Western College and the University of North Alabama and Colorado Mesa University, just hoping someone would notice him and keep giving him a chance to pitch. And he played a sport more ruthless than Monsanto, routinely weeding out perfect physical specimens who are taken in the first round and have all the shiny new equipment they could want and receive every developmental benefit. In that environment, how does an undersized 28th rounder from Brawley, Calif., ever have a chance to make the big leagues? Or thinking about the possibility of staying there?

But Romo had something that so many of these first-timers didn’t.

He hurled his shooter with all the biblical fearlessness like a slingshot. And he never lacked the stones.

Now Romo, the last active member of the Giants’ Core Four relief pitchers, plans to throw the pitcher in a Giants uniform one last time.

Giants president Farhan Zaidi brokered the deal with Romo’s agent, Barry Meister, who understood what coming full circle would mean for his client. Former Giants general manager Bobby Evans, who lives a few doors down from Romo in San Francisco, also helped plant a seed that was already germinating in Zaidi’s mind in the second half of last season. Zaidi said he considered contacting Meister about Romo after the Blue Jays released him on July 20, but the Giants didn’t have a 40-man roster spot at the time and Romo had other interests. He signed with Monclova on August 1, preventing him from joining the other members of the Core Four at the Giants’ 2012 World Series reunion 12 days later.

Romo entered this past offseason unsure of his plans. But he said he knew it was time to call it a career when he didn’t receive an invitation to pitch for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic. So he began a life transition to being a full-time family man. He married his longtime partner, Melinda, in January and is enjoying the closer bond he’s forming with his sons Rilen, 17, Rex, 11, Rhys, 7, Mateo, 4, and Lucas, who turns 2 on Sunday.

But a few more weeks in a Giants uniform was too good to pass up.

“It’s a legitimate off-the-charts invite,” said Romo, who is bringing his entire family with him to experience the next few weeks together. “I go through all the formalities. I don’t blame them. I’m 40 years old. I don’t blame them for wanting to cover their asses if something dodgy happens. I’m just hoping I can get the team discount so I can get new jerseys all my children! I’m excited, I really am.”

Circumstances may be different now. So are the expectations. If nothing else, Romo will be in camp to advise Giants pitchers on pitching mentality and maybe even share a secret or two about his signature slider. He has to smile whenever he hears about the latest trends in pitch design.

“They’re teaching the sweeper now!” He said in a fake announcer voice laced with a laugh. “This is the year of the sweeper. I say, ‘Oh, so now the sweeper is important? Is the sweeper a game changer?’ Huh. So the last 15 years of my life wasn’t it? It was game-changing for me!

“I can pass on the slider for once. I’ve been reluctant to do it, I can’t lie. It’s the only real thing that has separated me from the rest. It’s just different.”

This isn’t the first time the Giants pulled some strings to allow a beloved player to return to finish his career in a Giants uniform. In 2008, they signed first baseman JT Snow to a major-league contract and briefly placed him on the 40-man roster for the penultimate game of the 2008 season. Snow, who hadn’t appeared in a big league game since 2006 with the Red Sox, was announced as the starter at first base, took the field, absorbed a final ovation and then gave the position to Travis Ishikawa before Matt Cain threw the first pitch of the game. Snow was paid a prorated portion of the major-league minimum salary of $390,000 at the time, which amounted to $2,131.

“It’s a good statement of what we think of him,” then-general manager Brian Sabean said at the time. “He is one of the most popular players and one of the truest professionals we have had in uniform.”

Unlike Snow’s farewell, Romo’s final appearance will not appear in official baseball statistics. Although the original pitch was for Romo to sign a one-day contract, 40-man roster spots are always the most valuable in the days leading up to the season opener. So pairing the NRI contract with the Bay Bridge Series appearance will be a way for the Giants to honor Romo and give their fans a moment to remember without complicating their roster plans when they make their final picks for the March 30 opener at Yankee Stadium .

Romo, informed that left-hander Scott Alexander currently wears No. 54, said he doesn’t want or need his old number.

“I promise I’m not trying to take anybody’s place,” he said. “I’ll say it straight up, I’m not coming here to make a team. I can’t make this team right now. I’m mainly not trying. I like where I’m at in life, seeing my kids as often as I can I have made a home here (in San Francisco).

“For most of my career, especially my Giants days, I struggled to find a home for myself. I wanted to go back to Brawley and it just didn’t feel right. It felt good to be home and around my parents and immediate family, but I had to go after a few days. It was like I had to be somewhere else. And now that I’m here, I never feel like I have to go. I have what I need here I have what makes me feel good here.

“So it means a lot to come full circle. Hunter (Pence) has to do it. Pablo (Sandoval) got a chance to do that. Matt Cain, he was blessed to play his entire career in one place. So it’s humbling. Not trying to be too inappropriate, but it’s f—ing dope, you know?”

Romo isn’t sure what to expect. He just knows the emotions will flow.

“The one thing I don’t want to do, which I’m afraid I probably will do, is end up crying,” he said. “I don’t know emotionally how I’m going to feel. Not just running out there, but … walking.

“If we all had to write a dream scenario on a piece of paper, like, ‘This is what you want,’ I still couldn’t have written it as well as it happened. In every aspect.

“Forever giant. You hear it, forever Giant. And to me that’s what happens. I mean it. Forever grateful. It’s legal what happens.”

(File photo of Romo in 2014: Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press)

Leave a Reply

Scroll to Top
%d bloggers like this: