Report: Former Giants reliever Sergio Romo agrees to deal with Dodgers

Report: Former Giants reliever Sergio Romo agrees to deal with Dodgers

Update (Feb. 15, 2017): Sergio Romo officially signed a one-year deal with the Dodgers.

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SAN FRANCISCO — One of the most popular relievers in Giants history is headed for the other side of a storied rivalry. 

Sergio Romo agreed to a deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday, per Jon Morosi of MLB Network. According to Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com, Romo’s deal will be for one year and is pending a physical. Romo, a native of Southern California, had spent his entire career with the Giants after being selected in the 28th round of the 2005 MLB Draft. 

Romo had a 2.58 ERA in nine seasons with the Giants, saving 84 games, including the clincher in the 2012 World Series. His fastball to freeze Miguel Cabrera will go down as one of the gutsiest pitches ever thrown in the postseason, but his reign as a closer wouldn’t last much longer. Romo was an All-Star in 2013, but midseason struggles the next year cost him the ninth-inning role. He had just six saves the last two seasons, primarily serving as a setup man for Santiago Casilla while also battling injuries. 

Romo made just 40 appearances in 2016 because of a flexor strain in a right elbow that has always seemed on the verge of blowing out. The Giants handled him carefully once he returned, but he grabbed a prominent role down the stretch by going back to his old ways. Romo’s slider was about as dominant as ever in August and September, and he posted a 1.42 ERA over his final 25 appearances. 

His time with the Giants ended in an uncharacteristic way. Romo was part of the group that blew Game 4 of the NLDS, and the Giants opened their offseason with a set plan to go in a different direction. Mark Melancon was signed to a four-year deal in December. Romo and Casilla had both indicated a desire to return to San Francisco, but Casilla signed with the A’s in January after not receiving an offer, and Romo was left in the same position. In recent weeks, it became clear that the Dodgers would likely present the best opportunity. Romo's departure all but ends the wildly successful Core Four era. Jeremy Affeldt retired at the end of the 2015 season and Javier Lopez may join him soon. 

In Los Angeles, Romo could have an opportunity to continue to pitch in the late innings. The Dodgers do not have a set eighth-inning guy in front of closer Kenley Jansen, and while Romo is best used as a matchup play these days, he remains death on right-handed hitters. Romo, born in nearby Brawley, should be a popular addition in Los Angeles. It won’t hurt that the player who has one of the best entrance routines in baseball will now play in the park with the loudest speakers.

The Giants will face Romo’s Dodgers 19 times in 2017, starting on April 24 in San Francisco. Romo is following a path recently blazed (unsuccessfully) by Jason Schmidt and Brian Wilson, but he should find a softer landing. Romo won’t be asked to be an ace or a closer. The Dodgers surely just want him to continue spinning sliders to right-handers, piling up strikeouts one or two batters at a time. If he’s the Romo of old, the rivalry will get an interesting boost. While the Giants send out a lineup filled with left-handers, Romo may see plenty of Hunter Pence, his neighbor in the clubhouse, and Buster Posey, his longtime catcher. 

Giants Notes: Span feeling better, hopes to return to lineup Wednesday

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Giants Notes: Span feeling better, hopes to return to lineup Wednesday

CHICAGO -- Joe Panik's leadoff homer in the series opener was a jolt, but the Giants are a much more dangerous offense when Denard Span is clicking atop the lineup, a spot ahead of Panik, and they hope to have that duo going Wednesday. Span got treatment all day Tuesday and said he could return to the lineup against Kyle Hendricks. 

"The swelling has gone down," Span said of his sprained left thumb. "The thing to do is to come in tomorrow, test it out, and if it feels good, you strap it on."

Span said an X-ray came back clean, but he didn't grab a bat Tuesday to test the thumb, focusing instead on treatment. He is batting .326 in nine games since coming off the DL. His replacement in center this week, Gorkys Hernandez, was 0-for-3 against Jon Lester, lowering his average to .160. 

--- The main story from the second game of this series: Johnny Cueto is now dealing with a second blister, and you can see the lack of movement on his pitches. The Cubs took advantage. Lester didn't need much help while throwing a 99-pitch complete game in two hours and five minutes. 

"He threw a lot more changeups than we've seen in the past," Buster Posey said. "He's shown it in the past but tonight he had good command of it. It wasn't just a show-me pitch. He used it a lot and threw it to lefties as well.

Posey twice grounded short rollers in front of the plate.

--- Posey's throw to nab Javy Baez on Monday was one of the best of the year, and on Tuesday afternoon, Bruce Bochy said, "If he's given a chance, I don't think there's anyone better in the game." That might be true, but Willson Contreras is threatening to get into the conversation. He threw an 85 mph rocket to second in the fifth to nab Eduardo Nuñez. If you're wondering how Lester -- who flat-out has the yips about throwing to first base and doesn't do it -- has allowed just six stolen bases this season, look no further than his young catcher. Long-term, Contreras is the guy I would expect to compete with Posey for Gold Gloves. 

"Nuney, with his speed, can go," Bochy said. "Their catcher made a great throw. Put it right on the money."

--- From before Tuesday's game, what do the relievers think of the new hidden bullpen at Wrigley? And if you missed the Power Rankings the other day, the records are outdated, but there are updates in here on old friends Matt Duffy, Chris Heston, Tommy Joseph, Adalberto Mejia, Yusmeiro Petit and others. Petit in particular is incredible ... just keeps doing his thing. 

--- This play was made by the shortstop. That's good for the old UZR.

Now dealing with a second blister, Cueto gives up three homers to Cubs

Now dealing with a second blister, Cueto gives up three homers to Cubs

CHICAGO — Even after losses, Johnny Cueto tends to find a way to flash a smile or two in post-game interviews. He is as competitive as it gets between the lines, but off the field he embraces a relaxed attitude. 

There was none of that Tuesday night at Wrigley. Cueto wore a dour look while describing a 4-1 loss to the Cubs, perhaps because he is a man searching for answers. Cueto was already pitching with a blister for the first time in his career. On Tuesday, he admitted he’s now trying to make the ball dance while dealing with a second blister. 

The first, on his middle finger, popped up at the end of the spring and has bothered Cueto off and on. The second, on his index finger, formed in St. Louis last week. 

“It’s not an excuse,” Cueto said several times. “I was getting hit.”

The Cubs crushed three homers, including a 470-foot bomb from Kyle Schwarber. All three pitches leaked right over the heart of the plate, and Cueto admitted that he can't get that final twist on the ball as he normally does. A tad of his movement is missing, and hitters are taking advantage. 

“It’s just those pitches I left hanging,” Cueto said through interpreter Erwin Higueros. “When you leave pitches hanging or put them right in the middle of the plate, you’re going to pay the price.”

The homers — by Schwarber, Jason Heyward and Anthony Rizzo — represented 60 percent of the hits Cueto gave up. He struck out eight in six innings.

“It’s a little unlike Johnny to make mistakes like that,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “You like to think you could make a mistake and get away with it, but he didn’t tonight. A couple of fastballs he pulled over the heart of the plate and then one cutter.”

Catcher Buster Posey said the Cubs were on Cueto’s heater, so the duo tried to adjust. You can’t pitch without your fastball, though, and Cueto’s isn’t quite as explosive as it was in his first year with the Giants. The velocity is down a couple of ticks, but it’s unclear if that too is related to the blisters. 

What is clear is that Cueto is a different pitcher in his second season in San Francisco. He has a 4.64 ERA and opposing hitters are batting .253 with 11 homers. Through 10 starts last year, Cueto had a 2.83 ERA and was holding hitters to a .229 average. He had allowed just two homers. 

“Gosh, it’s just probably a few more mistakes than he made last year,” Bochy said. “He’s still competing so well and he gives you a chance to win every game.”

Cueto made it through six despite the long-ball issues, but that wasn’t enough against Jon Lester, who would have faced Cueto in Game 5 last October. Lester needed just 99 pitches to carve up the Giants for a complete game. He threw 70 strikes. 

That’s the type of efficient performance the Giants came to expect from Cueto last year. Cueto still expects it from himself, but his fingers aren’t cooperating. Asked if he would take a short stint on the DL to get right, Cueto said he can’t. He needs to keep pitching and have callouses form. Plus, any break without throwing would be a significant blow to a team trying desperately to stay within shouting distance of a playoff spot. 

“Basically, it makes no sense whatsoever,” to take a break, Cueto said.