Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rookie Romero helps Rays beat Orioles

ST. PETERSBURG — It was around noon Saturday when Enny Romero finally got the shocking word, via a phone call from his agent, that the Rays were summoning him from his Dominican Republic home to make his major-league debut as Sunday's starter.

Expecting to spend another relaxing day with his wife and infant son, the 22-year-old prospect instead was in full scramble, with less than an hour to get to the airport. Having not thrown since his last minor-league game Sept. 13, Romero first headed to a nearby field to play catch for about 10 minutes with his brother. He then hurriedly packed a bag and got a ride to the airport from his teary-eyed father.

Next was a 2½-hour flight to Orlando, more than an hour in customs, then a two-hour ride in a town car to his St. Petersburg hotel. It was after 9 by then, and Romero's first night as a big-leaguer consisted of ordering a pizza and trying — mostly unsuccessfully — to force his eyes shut.

Sunday went a bit smoother.

Romero delivered coolly, calmly and impressively in working into the fifth inning, allowing just one hit. And with some dominant bullpen help, dazzling defense and just enough offense, the result was a 3-1 win over Baltimore that kept the Rays atop the American League wild-card race.

"That's about as clutch as you can get right there," reliever Jamey Wright said. "Coming out with no fear, going right after guys. I think he exceeded all expectations of what we were hoping for (Sunday). And that's a beautiful thing."

With seven games to play, including today's 3:10 p.m. home finale, the Rays remain a half-game ahead of the Indians but moved to two ahead of the Rangers. The Royals are four back of the Rays, the Yankees 4½, the Orioles five.

With scheduled Sunday starter Jeremy Hellickson among the 11 pitchers used in Friday's 18-inning marathon, the Rays decided to bring in Romero. Though he made just two Triple-A appearances (one start) after spending the season at Double A, they figured his mid 90s velocity would play well. But they were unsure enough that they also brought up J.D. Martin from Triple A to serve as a potential backup. "I had no idea," manager Joe Maddon said.

Romero's goal was to pitch with countrymen Joel Peralta and Fernando Rodney, and when he walked in Sunday, a No. 45 with his name on it was hanging in the locker between them. "#DreamComeTrue," he tweeted.

Peralta gave him simple advice — "Have fun and throw the ball down" — and Maddon similarly said to just do what he did in the minors. Romero's warmup didn't go well — pitching coach Jim Hickey described it as "scattered" — and he felt the nerves as he made his first pitch, a 93 mph fastball.

"After that I breathe," Romero said. "Breathe and throw the ball the same as in the minor leagues."

Maddon said he knew they would be okay after Romero gave up a single to Manny Machado on his third pitch. "He was breathing well," Maddon said. "Machado rolled that ball into rightfield, no big deal. He got right back on the mound, not fazed by it at all. And he just kept looking that way."

He carried the 1-0 lead from David DeJesus' homer into the fifth, but after a fourth walk and a drive Wil Myers leaped to snare at the rightfield wall, Maddon had seen enough, going to the bullpen with two outs.

That kept Romero from qualifying for the win, but it worked out well other­wise. "The bullpen was ridiculously great," Maddon said.

Brandon Gomes ended the fifth, then had a strikeout to start the sixth. Wesley Wright came in to get one, Jamey Wright another. The line for the sixth: three pitchers, three K's.

The Rays — with Evan Longoria ill and Desmond Jennings leaving with hamstring tightness — scored two in the sixth, and the relievers, despite a ninth-inning catwalk incident that scored a run, finished it off.

"I'm very happy," Romero said.

He wasn't the only one.

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]bay.com.

     
Comments
So, how exactly did the Rays end up losing Monday?

So, how exactly did the Rays end up losing Monday?

The Rays lost Monday's game when Sergio Romo failed them in the ninth inning.Called on to protect what was whittled to a one-run lead from 4-0, Romo got off to a bad start, walking the first batter on four pitches and then allowing a single to the se...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Rays continue to struggle in close games

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Rays continue to struggle in close games

The Rays blow a four-run lead in Houston and lose on a walkoff hit to the Astros in the opener of their three-game series. It's the 19th one-run loss for the Rays this season as they continue to struggle in close games. Fortunately, reinforcements ar...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Rays DFA Rob Refsnyder to make room for Kevin Kiermaier

Rays DFA Rob Refsnyder to make room for Kevin Kiermaier

The Rays made official after Monday's game that CF Kevin Kiermaier would be activated on Tuesday.And to make room on the 40- and 25 man rosters, they designated for assignment OF Rob Refsnyder.Acquired from the Indians for cash considerations just be...
Published: 06/19/18
Rays journal: A 4-0 lead disappears in loss at Houston

Rays journal: A 4-0 lead disappears in loss at Houston

HOUSTON — The Rays brought up several of their top prospects so they can get as much experience as possible.And Monday that included seeing how the relentless defending champion Astros worked their way back from an early four-run deficit to sco...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella pondered upside-down pitching in 2005

Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella pondered upside-down pitching in 2005

HOUSTON — Well before the idea of using a reliever to open games, as the Rays did against the Astros Monday for the 12th time, and then bringing in a starter was even a gleam in the eyes of the current Rays staff, former manager Lou Piniella wa...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Rays-Astros

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Rays-Astros

RHP Ryne Stanek continues to look comfortable and confident as the game opener, retiring all five batters he faced. His six starts now cover a complete game, and he has allowed only two runs in the nine innings.OF Carlos Gomez's feelings about not li...
Published: 06/18/18
For starters: Rays at Astros, trying to stop a streaking champion

For starters: Rays at Astros, trying to stop a streaking champion

UPDATE, 6:40: Cash said he had a good talk with Hechavarria, and that he understood the situation. Cash said Hechavarria will get to play some, and when he does it will be at short. … RHP Chris Archer (abdominal strain) is slated to throw a bul...
Published: 06/18/18
Kevin Kiermaier set to rejoin Rays Tuesday

Kevin Kiermaier set to rejoin Rays Tuesday

CF Kevin Kiermaier is here in Houston and will work out with the Rays today, and said that if all goes well he will be activated on Tuesday.That would be a couple days ahead of his most recent timetable, which had him slated to return to Friday.Kierm...
Published: 06/18/18
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Rays drop three of four in New York

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Rays drop three of four in New York

The Rays lose three of four games in New York as Rick Stroud says they fail to figure out the Yankees' pitching. With Christian Arroyo injured, they activate Adeiny Hechavarria — one of the stars of Sunday's win — from the disabled list a...
Published: 06/18/18
Rays journal: Adeiny Hechavarria returns and plays short, but now what?

Rays journal: Adeiny Hechavarria returns and plays short, but now what?

NEW YORK — The Adeiny Hechavarria situation is going to be interesting for the Rays. The veteran seemed destined to be traded or even released as he completed his recovery from a hamstring strain rather than play again for the Rays after last ...
Published: 06/18/18