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Nats sign veteran lefty reliever Romero

Nats sign veteran lefty reliever Romero

VIERA, Fla. -- Looking for bullpen insurance, the Nationals signed left-hander J.C. Romero to a Minor League deal with an invitation to Spring Training. He is expected to join the team on Saturday, when Washington plays the Mets in Port St. Lucie, Fla.

General manager Mike Rizzo indicated Romero will not make the Opening Day roster. Rizzo looks at this signing to be similar to when left-hander Michael Gonzalez signed a Minor League deal with Washington last May. Gonzalez later played a role in helping the team win the National League East title.

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"It has been conveyed to him. We don't feel that it's realistic [that Romero will make the Opening Day roster]," Rizzo said. "He will go to the Minor Leagues, perform down there. If he can help us down the road, we'll go grab him."

The Nationals have been scouting Romero since early this month when he played for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic. Rizzo said Romero's fastball velocity was up.

This will be Romero's second tenure in the Nationals' organization. He played five games for Triple-A Syracuse in 2011. Last season, Romero played with the Cardinals and Orioles and he allowed a combined 12 runs in 12 innings.

"We are going to give J.C. an opportunity to see if he could help us," Rizzo said. "He is a veteran pitcher. We saw him in the [Classic] and he threw well. We'll see if he can help us on the Major League level."

Outfielder Jayson Werth is familiar with Romero. They were teammates when the Phillies won a World Series title in 2008. Werth said Romero is an emotional guy on the mound.

"I'm a big fan of J.C.'s. I'm definitely glad to have him on the team," Werth said. "Hopefully, he will get a chance to help us. I remember him getting some big outs [with the Phillies]. He is an emotional guy. At times, he would get out of big situations, he would show it. I remember him pounding his chest, fist pumping for quite a bit. That meant good things happened."

The Nationals will go into the season with one left-hander (Zach Duke) in the bullpen, and Rizzo is comfortable with that situation. Last year, the Nationals ended the postseason with three left-handers (Gonzalez, Sean Burnett and Tom Gorzelanny) in the bullpen, but those three either left via free agency or were non-tendered.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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