"Let us go forth a while, and get better air in our lungs. Let us leave our closed rooms...
The game of ball is glorious."

--Walt Whitman

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Don't Let the Door Hit You

Romero leaves game in snit
Appearance likely reliever's last as a Twin

J.C. Romero probably made his last appearance for the Twins on Wednesday night.

If so, it was a bitter ending.

The enigmatic relief pitcher likely sealed his fate with the only organization he has ever known when he showed up manager Ron Gardenhire and yelled at a coach in the dugout during the Twins' 6-3 victory over the Kansas City Royals at the Metrodome.

"That was wrong," said Gardenhire, who added that he hasn't decided whether Romero will pitch in any of the last four games this season. "Unacceptable."

Romero, who was on the trading block this summer, told the Pioneer Press last month that he would embrace the idea of being traded. The Twins already were expected to shop Romero during the offseason, and Wednesday's incident likely will push general manager Terry Ryan to try to expedite moving the talented but unreliable left-hander.

"It's in their hands," Romero said. "Either we get somewhere (with a trade) or dismiss me."

After hitting two batters in two-thirds of an inning, Romero walked completely off the mound on seeing Gardenhire step out of the dugout and summon Jesse Crain from the bullpen. Romero handed the ball to Gardenhire in passing about five feet away from the mound. After Gardenhire walked to the top of the mound, he turned and appeared to say something to Romero, who never looked back and continued walking slowly toward the dugout.

A television camera caught Romero shouting at bench coach Steve Liddle as Romero passed through the dugout.

"We all know what happened; you saw it in the dugout," said Gardenhire, who plans to meet with Romero today. "That's a little in-house thing that's going to be taken care of expeditiously."

Gardenhire, like a lot of managers, has long emphasized to pitchers the proper protocol for a pitching change, including how to hand the ball to the manager.

Romero, in his fourth full season in the majors, has had a strained relationship with the on-field staff. The staff often has been frustrated with Romero because of his stubbornness and coachability issues.

During a game in 2003, he argued with his catcher, A.J. Pierzynski, on the field. Last season, he was demoted to the minors for a stretch in midseason. And even after pitching well on coming back from the minors, he slumped in September, and Gardenhire reached a point at which he couldn't trust him down the stretch.

Even after all that, the team signed Romero to a two-year, $3.7 million contract in hopes he would gain confidence and settle down.

But Romero continued to struggle this season, although his 4-3 record and 3.47 earned-run average might suggest otherwise. He has allowed almost half of his inherited runners to score (19 of 42). Plus, he has hit six batters, a total more than that of three Twins starters. Romero also has walked 39 batters, by far more than any other Twins reliever.

I'm strapped for time here, so as much as I've looked forward to this inevitable moment since the day I came to understand the concept of the inherited runner, I won't linger to heap scorn on JC's deserving head. I'll just add this last, special message:

Dear JC,
Lefthanded and breathing isn't enough.
Oh, and don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.
P.S. May I suggest the White Sox as a nice fit for you?

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