Sunday Notes: Sergio Romo Doesn’t Plan to Pitch Forever (Really)

Sergio Romo moved past Walter Johnson on the all-time pitching appearances list a few days ago. Now in his fifteenth season, and his first with the Seattle Mariners, the 39-year-old right-hander has taken the mound 804 times, a number that only 49 others have reached. Also in front of Tyler Clippard following yesterday’s outing in Boston, Romo was at 798 games to begin the campaign.

I asked the bearded-and-tattooed reliever when he started becoming aware of his place in history.

“This season, really,” Romo told me on Friday. “Earlier in my career, it had been more of a blur. But coming into this year, it was kind of, ‘Hey, man…’ My wife, too. She was aware of it. She was, ‘You’re two away from 800,’ so I started paying attention.”

Asked for his thoughts on having just passed a legendary Hall of Famer, Romo responded with a smiling, “Take that, Walter!”

Romo knows his history. “The Big Train” pitched long before he was alive — from 1907 through 1927 — but his legacy is no mystery.

“He was an infamous flame-thrower, and a guy who commanded a lot of respect,” said Romo. “He pitched a lot of innings, and he did it throwing gas. I actually play with Walter Johnson every now and again in MLB: The Show, The’ve got a lot of greats in that game. Hank Aaron, Willie McCovey… a lot of those guys.”

Nolan Ryan pitched in 807 games on his way to immortality.R omo will soon pass “The Ryan Express” on the all-time appearances, as well. I asked the owner of 137 saves, and a career 3.09 ERA, what it feels like — obvious caveats aside — to be in such company.

“What it does is make me feel kind of cool,” replied Romo, who ranks behind only Joe Smith among active pitchers. “I’m proud of myself, because I’m not your prototypical six-foot-and-up, and 200 pounds. I’ve never thrown particularly hard. So it’s more of a proud-of-myself feeling, based on the fact that I’ve beaten the odds to get to this point.”

Will the 5-foot-11 slider-specialist pitch forever?

“No shot,” was Romo’s response to that suggestion. “No shot at all. My 10-year-old thinks I can pitch forever, but I don’t really know how much I have left. I’ll leave that in God’s hands. I can say that I’ve been enjoying my days. I’ve noticed the last couple years — especially this season — that I’ve really started to enjoy my days to the max. All of the little things outside of just competing…. I mean, the results, good and bad, are all a bonus now. I’m getting to do this in the big leagues. I’m not on the couch.”

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Paul Sewald has been outstanding since signing with Seattle prior to last season. In 74 appearances out of the Mariners bullpen, the soon-to-turn-32-year-old right-hander has a dozen saves, the same number of relief wins, and a 3.01 ERA. Moreover, he’s fanned 117 batters in just 77-and-two-thirds innings.

That Sewald has thrived in Seattle after reconfiguring his pitch characteristics — this after a tumultuous four years with the New York Mets — is only part of the story. Along with the Mariners, the Toronto Blue Jays and the Houston Astros had shown serious interest when he was on the open market. The latter of those teams is particularly chagrined that Sewald opted to join one of their division rivals instead.

“Joe Smith talked to one of the pitching coordinators with Houston last year when we played them in September,” explained Sewald. “The guy had mentioned to Joe that they had wanted me, and weren’t exactly excited that I had turned into the pitcher they’d hoped they were going to get. I like to think that I could have turned myself into who I am today with either of [Houston or Toronto], but I’m extremely happy to be with Seattle.”

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RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS

Fletcher Low went 1 for 4 against Sailor Stroud.

Hugh High went 1 for 5 against Mellie Wolfgang.

George Hendrick went 6 for 8 against Tom Underwood.

Lyle Overbay went 6 for 8 against Jeff Karstens.

Jim Bottomley went 5 for 9 against Bob Feller.

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Two weeks ago, this column included Chicago White Sox broadcast analyst Darrin Jackson’s response to the question, “Which pitcher did you face in your career who was better than a lot of people remember?’ The erstwhile outfielder named Darryl Kile. On Tuesday, I asked that same question to Geoff Blum.

“Jon Lieber,” replied Blum, who played from 1999-2012 and is now a broadcaster for the Houston Astros. “I couldn’t figure that dude out. It drove me nuts. He was the most comfortable at bat I never got a hit against. He would throw me sinkers on the outside corner, and I just could not figure out how to keep it elevated. I just couldn’t figure out how to find a hole with that damn thing. And the second I hit a sinker hard, he would throw me a little bit of a changeup, or a little bit of a slider, and I would swing over the top of it. Every time. Then he’d go back to the sinker, and I’d just pound it into the ground. He was only throwing 88-89, but the guy just tore me up.”

Jackson had described Kile as someone who “was going to do the intimidating.” In baseball jargon “a comfortable at bat” is a pitcher who is exactly the opposite. As Blum knows all too well, that doesn’t mean he’s easy to square up.

“He had a good quick delivery, and that was about it,” said Blum. “I didn’t ever step in the box thinking I was intimidated, but at the end of the day, I was 0-for-3. I just couldn’t figure that guy out. I faced him maybe 15 times, and never got a hit off him.”

Blum correctly guessed having faced Lieber 15 times, but he did actually log a base knock against him. Blum went 1-for-13, plus a walk and a sacrifice, versus the right-hander who went 131-124 with a 4.27 ERA over 14 big-league seasons. It wasn’t a rocket. The lone hit was of the infield variety.

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A quiz:

Who has the highest on-base percentage in San Diego Padres franchise history (minimum 2,000 plate appearances)?

The answer can be found below.

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NEWS NOTES

Joe Panik announced his retirement earlier this week. The 31-year-old infielder will leave the game having recorded 733 hits in a big-league career that spanned the 2014-2021 seasons. Panik won a World Series ring with the San Francisco Giants in 2014.

The independent Atlantic League’s Long Island Ducks activated Lew Ford from the injured list on Friday. The 45-year-old former Minnesota Twins outfielder — now a player/coach — has 2,491 career hits, including 425 at the MLB level.

SABR’s Jerry Malloy Negro League Conference — the only symposium dedicated exclusively to the examination and promotion of Black baseball history — will be held from June 2-4, 2022 in Birmingham, Alabama. Information can be found here.

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The answer to the quiz is Gene Tenace, who had a .403 OBP in 2,094 plate appearances with the Padres. Tony Gwynn ranks second, with a .388 OBP.

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Julia Morales was a guest on Friday’s episode of FanGraphs Audio, and one of the topics the Astros reporter/broadcaster touched upon was the deal that brought Zack Greinke to Houston at the July 2019 trade deadline.

“The door opened, and at that moment the clubhouse absolutely erupted,” Morales said on the pod. “[The players were] losing their minds. We were like,’ Who did they just get, who did they just get?’ We get to come in seconds later, and find out it’s Greinke. People were like, Greinke, Greinke, Greinke. Everyone was so excited. And Gerrit Cole was probably the most excited. He’s jumping around, like, ‘I can’t believe we got this guy.’”

Greinke won eight of nine decisions down the stretch, helping the Astros win the NL West and ultimately reach the World Series. Along the way, the enigmatic right-hander was a challenge to cover.

“Once he got into the clubhouse, he was everything that everyone explained to me,” said Morales, who has been on the Astros beat for 10 years. “It was ‘OK, it’s going to be tough, the way you ask questions, the way you interact…. You just kind of have to get used to it. You can’t take it personally. but man, he would make it awkward on us. But he pitched his you-know-what off for the Astros.”

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FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Shugo Maki is slashing .325/.414/.658 with 10 home runs for NPB’s Yokohama BayStars. The 24-year-old second baseman tops the Central League in OPS.

Joe McCarthy hit his first NPB home run on Friday as the Orix Buffaloes beat the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles 6-0 behind the pitching of Yoshi Yamamoto. The 28-year-old outfielder came up through the Tampa Bay Rays system and has 10 MLB plate appearances, all with the San Francisco Giants in 2020. Yamamoto, as 23-year-old right-hander, ran his record to 5-2 with a 1.79 ERA.

DJ Peters 피터스 is slashing .215/.272/.405 with seven home runs for the KBO’s Lotte Giants. The 26-year-old outfielder played in 52 games with the Texas Rangers, and 18 games with the Los Angeles Dodgers, last season.

Jung-hoo Lee 이정후 is slashing .327/.387/.473 with a 145 wRC+ for the KBO’s Kiwoom Heroes. The 23-year-old outfielder has struck out three times in 163 plate appearances.

Si-hwan Roh 노시환 is slashing .308/.416/.438 with a 154 wRC+ for the Hanwha Eagles. The 21-year-old third baseman was the third-overall pick in the 2019 KBO draft.

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Dusty Baker managed a lot of great players when he was at the helm of the San Francisco Giants from 1993-2002. Earlier this week, I asked Baker which players on those teams weren’t considered stars, yet were especially important contributors to the Giants’ success.

“I’d say Robby Thompson, Darren Lewis, and Kirt Manwaring” answered the 72-year-old Astros manager. “Money-man was our catcher. We called [Manwaring] money, because nothing got past him. He called a great game and won a Gold Glove. So did Robby. Another guy was Willie McGee. Robby and Willie were the leaders. You know the stars. There was Barry Bonds, Will Clark, Matt Williams. I had some quality bats.”

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FARM REPORT

Nomar Mazara is slashing .343/.448/.602 with five home runs in 125 plate appearances for San Diego’s Triple-A affiliate, the El Paso Chihuahuas. The 27-year-old outfielder was signed by the Padres in March.

Max Ferguson leads the minors with 30 stolen bases. The 22-year-old infielder in the Padres system also has a unique stat profile. Ferguson has drawn 41 walks, recorded just 25 hits, and has a .212/.414/.263 slash line.

Zac Cook has a .182/.363/.398 slash line with the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats. A 24-year-old outfielder in the Toronto Blue Jays system, Cook has drawn 10 walks and recorded 16 hits. He’s reached base via a HBP a most-in-the-minors 15 times.

Matthew Swain has surrendered three hits in 11 relief outings comprising 15 innings for the Low-A Fort Myers Mighty Mussels. The 24-year-old right-hander in the Minnesota Twins system has seven saves, 22 strikeouts, and hasn’t allowed an earned run.

Karl Kauffmann is 3-1 with a 2.61 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 41-and-third innings for the Double-A Hartford Yard Goats. A 24-year-old right-hander who was taken in the second round of the 2019 draft out of the University of Michigan by the Colorado Rockies, Kauffmann was featured here at FanGraphs in April 2021.

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It’s no seemingly longer the case, but for generations on end, teams were often reluctant to pitch left-handers at Fenway Park. On Thursday, I asked Seattle Mariners manager Scott Servais if not doing so has ever made sense.

“No,” replied Servais, a former big-league catcher. “I can understand why that would play into the minds of people, because of the Green Monster, but if you make pitches and control the strike zone, you should be able to pitch anywhere. You’ve got to kind of take that wall out of play. Does it always show up in the game? Yes. I don’t think I’ve ever played a game here when the wall doesn’t play a factor, somehow. You just know that going in. We get to hit the wall, just like they get to hit the wall.”

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Many players have signed their name inside the Green Monster over the years. Jeremy Peña is among the latest, having done so when the Astros visited Fenway Park earlier this week. Asked about the experience, Houston’s rookie shortstop provided a fun answer.

“It was awesome,” Peña told a group of reporters in the visiting clubhouse. “I’ve always wanted to sign it. Last year, I had the opportunity when I was on the taxi squad [for the ALCS] but I told myself I was going to sign it when I was on the actual club, when I was actually playing here. So I waited a year. I was looking around, and saw ‘Babe Ruth.’ It wasn’t Babe Ruth, but I signed under Babe Ruth. If you go in there, you’ll see.”

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LINKS YOU’LL LIKE

At Cincinnati Magazine, Chad Dotson presented reasons why Joey Votto might be the best Reds player of all time.

MLB.com Miami Marlins beat writer Christina De Nicola wrote about how prioritizing the mental game is helping Miguel Rojas and Jesús Sánchez succeed.

The New York Yankees recently released a minor league player who had allegedly been stealing equipment from teammates and selling it online. Brendan Kuty has the story at NJ.com.

Adam Jones wrote about Japan and his next chapter for The Players Tribune.

The president of the Finnish Baseball and Softball Federation, and the head coach of the Finnish National Baseball team, recently visited the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings for a series of games. Benjamin Hill wrote about it for MiLB.com.

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RANDOM FACTS AND STATS

José Iglesias is 11-for-54 in home games and 22 -for-54 away from Coors Field. The Colorado Rockies infielder’s .407 road batting average is tops among players with at least 50 PAs.

Jose Altuve has 1,805 hits, including 545 extra-base hits. Dustin Pedroia had 1,805 hits, including 549 extra-base hits.

Aroldis Chapman has 315 saves, 40 wins, and 20.4 fWAR.
Tom Henke had 311 saves, 41 wins, and 20.6 fWAR.

Texas Rangers history includes nine walk-off home runs with the team trailing in extra innings. The first two were hit by Richie Zisk and John Lowenstein, both in 1978. The others were hit by Dave Hostetler (1982), Oddibe McDowell (1987), Juan Gonzalez (1991), Josh Hamilton (2012), Adolis García and Jonah Heim (2021), and Nathaniel Lowe (earlier this week).

A total of seven pitchers have thrown five or more shutouts in a season since 1993. Ed Walsh threw five or more shutouts in seven consecutive seasons (1906-1912) while pitching for the Chicago White Sox. “Big Ed” had 11 shutouts in 1908 when he went 40-15 with a 1.42 ERA.

On today’s date in 2013, José Bautista hit a 10th-inning walk-off single to give the Toronto Blue Jays a 4-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays. An inning earlier, Bautista had tied the game with a home run, his second of the day.

The Boston Red Sox and Milwaukee Brewers combined to hit 11 home runs in the first game of a Fenway Park double-header on today’s date in 1977. The home team won 14-10, while the visitors captured the nightcap 6-0 behind an Eduardo Rodriguez two-hitter.

Dave Clark’s 16th-inning single gave the Chicago Cubs a 2-1 walk-off win over the Cincinnati Reds on today’s date in 1990. Chris Sabo and Luis Salazar had traded solo home runs in the 13th inning.

Players born on today’s date include Otey Clark, who went 4-4 with a 3.07 ERA over 82 innings with the Red Sox in 1945. It was the Boscobel, Wisconsin native’s only big-league season.

Also born on today’s date was Babe Ganzel, whose career comprised two distinctly-different cups of coffee with the Washington Senators. In 1927, Ganzel came to the plate 58 times and slashed .438/.509/.667. In 1928, he came to the plate 28 times and slashed .077/.111/.115. “Babe” — his given name was Foster Pirie Ganzel — was the son of Charlie Ganzel, who played in the big leagues from 1884-1897.





David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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snakestl
1 month ago

Jon Lieber

marchandman34member
1 month ago
Reply to  snakestl

Top 1500 player of all-time, great call out with Lieber and Darryl Kile, careers to be celebrated.