SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Sergio Romo didn’t think he would be this emotional. It was just catch.
But the setting, on the backfield behind Scottsdale Stadium, with at least two dozen fans lined up along the metal fence, and the circumstances, with Romo back in a Giants uniform for the first time since 2016, were too much to overcome.
After signing a minor-league deal with the intent to retire with the team he helped win three titles, Romo completed his physical Saturday morning, walked to his locker with a No. 54 jersey hanging in it, then proceeded out the clubhouse doors and down the left-field line, where pitching coaches Andrew Bailey and J.P. Martinez were waiting for him. Romo signed autographs for the dozens of onlookers, then began the emotional undertaking of his first time throwing with any intensity since last September.
Romo, 40, played catch for about 15 minutes, taking frequent pauses between pitches. He was soaking it all in, one last time.
Romo in action pic.twitter.com/9nNRMMrcZm
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“I’m still trying to wrap my head around how people can genuinely feel I deserve something like this,” Romo said afterward, fighting back tears. “I understand the teams I was a part of, I understand the successes that I had … I just never saw myself like that.”
Romo recorded the final out of the 2012 World Series, freezing Miguel Cabrera on an 88-mph fastball, and appeared in more games (515) at Oracle Park than any other pitcher. His nine years in San Francisco, but especially the five from 2010-14, cemented his status among the “Core Four,” alongside Jeremy Affeldt, Santiago Casilla and Javier Lopez.
The Giants wanted to give their fans a chance to honor that legacy — and a chance for Romo to receive that recognition one more time. He is expected to pitch against the A’s during their exhibition at Oracle Park next Monday. And if playing catch nearly had him in tears, well …
“I’m freaking out about that,” Romo said. “I really am. … I haven’t been nervous in a while. The part that makes me nervous and kind of afraid is walking off.”
Romo will have his wife and five sons in attendance. The last time he donned a Giants uniform, two of his children had yet to be born, and another was still a toddler. It was his oldest son who pushed him toward saying yes when the Giants reached out.
“I’m thankful I get the opportunity to do that, but I’m even more thankful that my sons want to be there,” Romo said. “They all want to see it and be a part of it. I’m like, you guys just want to see your dad cry.”
Romo’s agent, Barry Meister, had been exploring other opportunities to send off Romo into retirement when Giants president Farhan Zaidi proposed something different. Meister had hoped to have Romo throw out a first pitch, maybe give a curtain call to the crowd.
Zaidi then asked him, “Well, when was the last time you threw a baseball?”
It progressed from there, and not long after, Romo received a call from his representative.
“When he first said it I had my earbuds in,” Romo said. “He brought it up and I said, wait, wait, hold on, and I put it on speaker and called my wife over, like, babe listen to this, say it again, Barry. He said it again and I looked at my wife and she had a lot of emotion in her face. She was just blown away by it.”
Romo said he heard from his fellow “Core Four” members, from Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford and Hunter Pence. There are some familiar faces in the clubhouse here, too, from Romo’s other stops since leaving San Francisco after 2016. He teamed up with Mitch Haniger in Seattle and Sean Manaea and Stephen Piscotty in Oakland.
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It was that winding journey, with seven different teams, over the past seven years that Romo slowly began to realize that he was ready to call it a career. When the World Baseball Classic came around and Romo didn’t hear from Team Mexico, that was the final straw.
“I got told by a lot of my veterans, a lot of my mentors that I would know when,” Romo said. “There’s just something in you that clicks that it’s time. We all have our reasons and ways how we get to that moment. I’ve been battling this notion of letting it go for a couple offseasons now, realizing the size of the dog inside me isn’t as big as it was before.
“I started asking myself why. I heard (Albert) Pujols say last year that he wasn’t chasing anything anymore. That really resonated with me. I started asking myself, well, what am I chasing? Why am I still holding on? Do I still have something to prove? Is there somewhere I want to get to, a personal accolade or milestone or something? I got the same answer every time I asked myself. The answer was no.”
The only thing left was closure.
— Outfielder Austin Slater may not be ready for Opening Day, after an MRI revealed a strained left hamstring. Slater, whose throwing elbow had kept him out of the first half of Cactus League play, made his first appearance in the field Thursday but came out early after stealing two bases. “It’s going to be a bit for him,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “We’ll see how he responds to treatment.”
— Anthony DeSclafani started the Giants’ game Saturday against the Cubs (3 ⅔ IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 5 K), followed by Sean Manaea, in what may be a preview of the Giants’ pitching plans in the regular season. “It’s not out of the question that we would use Sean like that,” Kapler said. “I don’t think we have anything definitive. We haven’t had a chance to talk to all of the pitchers about that, but we’re getting closer to lining things up for the first road trip of the season.” The Giants have hinted at similar plans to piggyback Jakob Junis after Alex Wood’s starts.