Romano, Reds find positives in early struggles

Rookie right-hander allows six earned runs in loss to Brewers

Romano, Reds find positives in early struggles

MILWAUKEE -- The Reds have lost each of the last four games Sal Romano has started and six of his eight starts in the Majors. That includes Sunday's 7-4 defeat to the Brewers.

As has been the case with several Reds rookie starters in 2017, Cincinnati is looking for glimmers of development and stepping stones in each start amid the mounting losses. While Romano hasn't been good at times, there have been moments where he was. The 23-year-old Romano is 2-5 with a 6.05 ERA.

"It's just been a mixed bag," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "I thought today he had a very good changeup and he utilized it. The other day, it wasn't really there for him, he made a couple of pitches that got hit and then moved away from it. Other games, two, three starts ago, he had a slow start and finished with a really nice fastball-changeup-breaking-ball combination.

"What he's doing is what you want to see in the sense that you're seeing three pitches that he's able to compete with, and we want to stay with the changeup because it's a distant third pitch, but it's improving."

Romano allowed seven runs (six earned) on eight hits and a walk over five innings on Sunday, while striking out six.

"He's controlling the running game better by being quicker to the plate, and now it's being able to pitch in the big leagues and get comfortable in an environment where winning really is everything," Price said. "Development is important, but we want to win at the end of the day. This is a great proving ground for all these guys."

Romano got off to a slow start, as well, on Sunday and was down three runs quickly. It started with a Jonathan Villar leadoff walk in the first inning and led to Ryan Braun's scorched one-out RBI double. Neil Walker, who was making his Brewers debut, then singled and an error by Jesse Winker allowed Braun to score. Then with two outs, Manny Pina drove in Walker with an RBI ground-rule double.

Later, in the fifth, Romano was one out from escaping a jam that saw two runners on base with a 4-2 score when Domingo Santana hit a 1-0, 95-mph fastball over the middle of the plate for a three-run homer to right-center field.

Santana's three-run home run

"I guess you've got to try to take the good and bad and know what you've got to work on during the week," Romano said. "There was definitely a lot of good today, a lot of improvement in different things. Obviously the stat line doesn't show that and it's a loss for the team. I just have to take bits and pieces from every game and get better as the season goes on."

One area that was encouraging was Romano worked in his still-developing changeup 10 times among his 90 pitches. To end a 1-2-3 second inning, he used an 89-mph changeup to strike out Villar.

"I threw my changeup with confidence today, it was a huge pitch. I got a lot of weak contact on it, swings and misses and threw it a lot for strikes," Romano said. "I kind of knew after [the Villar strikeout] that I had it going. I was confident Tucker [Barnhart, catcher] was putting it down. I was throwing it with confidence. That's how it's going to get better. I need to be able to have a three-pitch mix up here in order to be successful."

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.