Between preparing to represent Mexico in the World Baseball Classic and training for the San Francisco Giants’ upcoming season, pitcher Sergio Romo has been busy.
On Tuesday Romo took the mound to face a hitter for the first time since sneaking a fastball past Miguel Cabrera for the final out of the World Series.
"It was a lot of fun to get out there again," Romo said after striking out his teammate, slugger Pablo Sandoval, at the team’s batting practice.
"It got my competitive juices going. I wanted to stay focused and be in the zone."
Watching his teammates let loose following the last out of each clinching game — the NL West title and the three postseason series — were Romo’s top four memorable moments of last season.
And this year, he wants a repeat.
"Sure, it was emotional for me at the moment," Romo said. "But then I was able to take a step back and watch my team celebrate. I wanted them to enjoy what we worked so hard to get. Those are the most gratifying moments to me."
My teammates' belief in me made me a much better pitcher.
- Sergio Romo
Romo shut his eyes while talking, as though he were reflecting back to those moments. His face contorted, his hands rolled into fists. He wore a broad smile.
"It was sheer euphoria," Romo said. "An unbelievable feeling."
After Brian Wilson's season ended last April because of an elbow injury that required surgery, Romo eventually took over as closed and saved 14 games in 15 chances during the regular season.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy said Romo's next step is learning to deal with the ups and downs that go along with being the last man on the mound. Sometimes it leads to failure.
"It's going to be an adjustment for him," Bochy said. "He does take it hard. He feels like he's let his teammates down. You're going to go through that, and he has to understand it. We know he's not trying to make a mistake, but it happens to everybody. You have to put that behind you. When you bounce back as much as we did last year, you need to be resilient."
Romo credited most of his success to his teammates' belief in him. His resources are Wilson, who struck out Nelson Cruz to complete the Giants' 2010 World Series over Texas, and Robb Nen, who won a World Series with the Florida Marlins and helped the Giants reach Game 7 of the 2002 World Series. Nen has become a Giants instructor.
"Brian helped me with little questions down the stretch," Romo said. "It basically came down to: Get your outs and then go celebrate. Having Nen around last year was huge for me, just to be able to talk to him."
For Romo, just glancing at his team's dugout or turning around to look at his fielders gives him a lift.
"When I'm on the mound, I can see in my teammates' faces that they have faith in me," Romo said. "I trusted my teammates most. They felt like the game was over when I got the ball, and that made me feel like a million bucks. I used to pitch with an attitude on my forehead. My teammates' belief in me made me a much better pitcher. I grew a little bit. It was a humbling experience, both good and bad."
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.