J.C. Romero, the Nationals’ newest entry in their left-handed relief depth derby, arrived at Nationals spring training this morning, one day after the team signed him to a minor league contract. Romero, who will pitch this afternoon, was eager to show off what he described as newfound health and accepting of his starting the season at Class AAA Syracuse.
“I just got to be ready,” Romero said. “You don’t want to try to jump the gun. When my name is called, I’ll be ready to do my job.”
Romero, 36, has played for seven organizations over the past two seasons, including the Nationals briefly in 2011, and found sustained success with none of them. But Romero believes that’s about to change.
Nationals scouts clocked Romero’s velocity pitching for Puerto Rico during the World Baseball Classic higher than it had been the previous two seasons. Romero credited a new training program that included less weight lifting and helped him lose nearly 20 pounds and gain arm speed. Romero also feels healthier than at any point since 2009. After that season, he underwent surgery to repair a flexor tendon in his left elbow.
“It took me full two years to re-establish myself and to prove to myself I’m healthy, I’m ready to go,” Romero said. “Some people heal quickly. In my case, it took me a little while. I’m 100 percent. I’m healthy. I want to make the best of it.”
Romero feels he will be ready to start the season after a few outings with the Nationals. He usually pitches between eight and 11 innings during spring training. He threw 5 2/3 at the World Baseball Classic, where he said, “you got to take your game to another level.”
He saw the WBC as an opportunity to showcase himself, and the Nationals, looking to bolster their left-handed options and improve their depth, jumped at the chance to sign him.
“I always had it in my mind this was one of the teams I wanted to be a part of,” Romero said. “I was back in back house after the Classic – sleeping, actually. My agent said, ‘Don’t get too comfortable. You’re going to sign with Washington.’ That was it.
“Every time you put a uniform on, that’s a blessing from the sky.”