LOS ANGELES (AP) — Sergio Romo looked over his shoulder again and again as if he just wanted to make sure that the No. 54 Dodgers jersey was still there.
It was, representing a confirmation of something Romo had come to believe would never happen. He grew up a Dodgers fan in the farming community of Brawley. But that was before the Giants drafted him in 2005 and before the pitcher helped them win three World Series.
“Honestly, kind of sheer irony isn’t it?” Romo said Thursday, the day after signing a one-year, $3 million contract that includes $250,000 in performance bonuses. “I mean growing up a Dodgers fan, then having to let my parents and grandfather know that the Giants drafted me. Then, I’m a Giant.
“Go figure, but here I am, coming over to what is considered in the Bay Area the dark side. I was a rival for so many years. I think it’s kind of cool. Kind of silly, too.”
For the Dodgers, also kind of necessary.
In Romo, the Dodgers have acquired critical bullpen help. A former closer, he is expected to work as the setup man for Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen.
“He obviously has a lot of October experience, a lot of experience pitching late in games and pennant races,” said Dodgers President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman, who thinks the right-handed Romo will be effective against right-handed batters. “When we looked at our bullpen and its configuration, we saw someone who was elite and someone who was attracted to us.”
Romo’s experience under pressure on baseball’s biggest stage is enough for Dodgers manager Dave Roberts to consider him for more than just eighth-inning work.
“Last year, our bullpen was one of the best in baseball, if not the best, and a lot of that lent itself to being unselfish,” Roberts said. “There will be a lot of times when Sergio pitches the eighth, and times when he doesn’t.”
A strain to the flexor tendons in his throwing hand limited Romo last season. He made 40 appearances instead of the 70 he made in 2015, finishing 2016 with a 2.64 ERA. That was good enough to earn him a spot on the Mexican team for this spring’s World Baseball Classic.
His grandfather played for the Diablos in Mexico City. As a kid, he and his dad, Frank, often traveled across the border, a trip of nearly 30 miles from Brawley to Mexicali, to play in the adult leagues.
“For me, it’s super special,” said Romo. “For my dad, I’m really happy that I can give him this experience. For me, it means a lot to put on a jersey that says Mexico and to represent him and what he stands for. Born in the states with Mexican parts. That’s the best way I can describe myself.”
NOTES: Pitcher Hyun-jin Ryu worked a bullpen session Thursday. Roberts said Ryu’s pitches were clocked at between 84 and 86 mph in an earlier session. Justin Turner, Corey Seager and Joc Pederson were among fielders who reported early Thursday. Too early, said Roberts, who urged them to wait until next week. The first full-squad workout is scheduled for Tuesday. Roberts said camp is already too long.
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