Mojo of Romo: Righty brings own style as closer
Giants hurler's confidence, success not compromised by his fun-loving personality
SAN FRANCISCO -- That thing Sergio Romo does, wagging his tongue between his lips as he readies to release the ball, he says he's not conscious of the nuance."I don't ever pay attention to it," he said on Thursday night. "It just kind of happens." The Giants couldn't care less about his antics as long as their closer of the moment continues to do the job. And that he did, finishing off a 2-0 win over the Tigers in Game 2 of the World Series with the save and a flourish at AT&T Park.
The Giants lead the best-of-seven Series, 2-0, and, after Friday's off-day, resume with Game 3 on Saturday at Comerica Park (4:30 p.m. PT air time on FOX, 5:07 PT first pitch).The Tigers on Thursday had Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder waiting in the wings in the ninth inning, when Romo came on to follow Madison Bumgarner and Santiago Casilla. No problem. Romo made quick work of Quintin Berry, Austin Jackson and Omar Infante. Inning and game over. Romo says it makes no difference if he's pitching in the seventh, eighth or ninth inning or whether the likes of Cabrera and Fielder are lurking. "I have to get outs," Romo said. "I've heard that some guys can pitch in certain innings and other guys can't. I don't have time to think of that stuff. My team has the confidence in me to get the job done in any situation. I have to believe and trust in that faith they have in me. Worrying about not being able to do it? That's not even a thought in my mind."
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Romo has been in and out of the closer role this season, which began when the incumbent, Brian Wilson, underwent Tommy John reconstruction surgery on his right elbow. For a while, Giants manager Bruce Bochy used Casilla, who had 25 saves in 31 opportunities. When that ran its course, he turned back to Romo, who had 14 in 15 opportunities before notching two more this postseason.Two years ago, when the Giants defeated the Rangers in five games to win the World Series for the first time since 1954, Wilson had 48 saves during the regular season and another six in the postseason, including the clincher in each series. As Wilson has rehabbed from his surgery, the guy with the big, black beard and the painted fingernails has watched with interest as the guy with the smaller beard and the wagging tongue has evolved in his old role. "It's been fun," Wilson said on Thursday night. "It's always fun watching your teammates do well in any role and get acclimated. I just know from personal experience that pressure is perception. If you can go out there and maintain a good, positive attitude, and keep your mojo going, you're going to be more successful than not." Romo seems to have no problem with either his perceptions or his mojo. He's so loosey goosey on the bench that for the first five innings of every game, he says, "I'm just a fan. When I hear someone call my name to get ready, then I get serious." So Romo had no problems conducting a lengthy in-game interview with the FOX crew on Thursday night as Bumgarner and Doug Fister were locked in a scoreless duel that didn't begin to nudge open until the Giants scored their first run on a double-play grounder in the seventh inning. Bullpen mate Jeremy Affeldt said he pays little attention to Romo's antics. "I'm not really with him," Affeldt said. "He's on the top step doing his funky stuff. You know, I'm not really that kind of guy. I'm watching the game from a different angle, and I'll be underneath sometimes just trying to get ready, trying to get heated up. I could be brought in in different situations. With him, he's just doing his thing. He's a different personality." That seems to be the mold for Giants closers. A 28th-round pick by the Giants in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, Romo came up through the organization as a middle-inning reliever and mop-up guy. Heading into the 2012 season, Romo had only had eight save opportunities in 207 appearances. He converted three of them. At 29, he was the definition of the setup man, and that's how Bochy used him. Then Wilson got hurt, and Casilla went on the blink. And now the veteran right-handed Casilla is setting up Romo. "Well, if you know him, he loves [to close]," Bochy said. "He loves being out there with the game on the line. That's what you love about him. He's not afraid, and he controls the baseball very well. He has a good slider and the ability to keep his composure out there in that ninth inning. That's always a tough inning. "He's got the makeup to be out there, and he's done a great job doing whatever role I put him in. But I do think he really enjoys closing." Romo evidently does, and he's not afraid to punctuate the moment with a wag of the tongue.
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow@boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.