Fearless Romo ready for WBC, any role with Giants

Bochy: Romo to get lion's share of early saves

Fearless Romo ready for WBC, any role with Giants
February 8, 2013, 6:30 pm
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Sergio Romo's contract allots for $200,000 in potential performance bonuses this year. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

The Giants have a target on our back, but you gotta like our chances.
—Sergio Romo

SAN FRANCISCO -- Sergio Romo enters the 2013 as the Giants closer. Sort of.

"Romo has earned the right to start there," manager Bruce Bochy said at the Giants' AT&T Park media event Friday.

Then he continued, and seemed to backtrack.

"We have some guys comfortable pitching late in ballgames, so they'll be able to help each other out. It worked well last year how we did things."

Last season, Brian Wilson saved one game before he was shut down for Tommy John surgery. The committee took over and Santiago Casilla led the way with 25 saves. Romo was second with 14, in addition to all four of the team's postseason saves. And Javier Lopez (7), Jeremy Affeldt (3) and Clay Hensley (3) combined for the remaining 13 saves. Bochy cited Casilla, Lopez and Affeldt as late-game possibilities Friday.

The plan doesn't even register on Romo's radar.

"I pitch whenever they put me in to pitch," Romo said when asked how he feels about being the closer. "It doesn't matter -- seventh, eithth, ninth -- my job is to get outs."

If you ask his throwing partner in the Giants bullpen, Jeremy Affeldt, the trait that has served Romo best in getting outs is not his slider, but his fearlessness.

"One thing about him," Affeldt shared, "is if you ask him to do something, he'll do it in the game that night. He just goes and throws it in a key at-bat."

Affeldt has been working on developing Romo's sinker, a pitch that breaks inside to a right-handed hitter and provides stark contrast to the righty's Frisbee slider, which breaks away. He described Romo's improving sinker, when executed properly, as eliciting "straight confusion on the hitter."

And if one of Romo's pitches is off, Affeld is taking partial responsibiliy, as he ensures the 5-foot-10, 185-pound slinger has all his pitches working while they warm up.

"It's not just a, 'Hey, that was a good one' 'cause youre afraid to hurt his feelings," Affeldt explained. "No, you look at him and say, 'That's not good. You need to finish it. It's backing up.'

"We're very honest with each other that way and that's why our bullpen works so well."

It certainly worked in 2012, when Romo finished with a sparkling 1.79 ERA in 69 regular season appearances and recorded the final three outs of the World Series all by way of the strikeout. It's led to quite an offseason.

"I still can't believe it," he said. "I talked to my dad like, 'Is this really happening?' Yeah, it's real. I kinda feel like I've been on a freight train ever since (striking out Miguel Cabrera to end the World Series). There really isn't anything that can prepare you for the change in attention that I've had."

Indeed, it's tough to prepare for a two-year contract that could increase from $9 million to $10.2 million. The deal that avoided arbitration Wednesday calls for salaries of $3.5 million this season and $5.5 million in 2014.

[RELATED: Giants, Romo avoid arbitration with two-year deal]

He can earn an additional $200,000 in performance bonuses this year: $50,000 each for 35, 40, 45 and 50 games finished.

His 2014 salary would escalate based on games finished this year, to $5.6 million for 30, $5.7 million for 32, $5.85 million for 37, $6 million for 42, $6.15 million for 47, $6.3 million for 52 and $6.5 million for 55.

But newly-minted money isn't stopping Romo from something he's long-desired. The 29-year-old American will represent Mexico in next month's World Baseball Classic. It didn't become a reality until Friday, when he received his Mexico jersey, which sports the familiar No. 54.

Romo, who already wears a Mexican flag on his back in tattoo form, is aware of another adornment.

"The Giants have a target on our back," said Romo. "But you gotta like our chances."

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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