Classic opens Nats' door for reliever Romero

Classic opens Nats' door for reliever Romero

VIERA, Fla. -- For many players, Spring Training serves as an audition of sorts. In J.C. Romero's case, the World Baseball Classic served as an audition for a Spring Training gig.

The Nationals signed the left-handed reliever to a Minor League contract with an invitation to big league Spring Training on Friday, with the idea that Romero can serve as bullpen depth in the Minors before, perhaps, joining the team during the season, if need be.

"It was very important," Romero said of the World Baseball Classic. "It gave me a chance of showing everybody that I was healthy, I was back where I was back in the day, and I'm very thankful for the opportunity."

The 36-year-old southpaw has pitched for seven teams in the last two years, after playing his first seven seasons in Minnesota. He has three-plus years of experience in the National League East with the Phillies, and owns a 34-28 career record and a 4.16 ERA. Lefties have hit .220 against him in his career, with righties batting .271.

"You could see the talent, and they were in the division that I was very familiar with," Romero said of signing with the Nationals. "You just like what they were made of. I just liked the way they approach the game, and the team was the type of team I wanted to be a part of."

Romero is expected to pitch on Saturday, and said he's used to logging 8-11 innings each Spring Training. He said he usually throws around 60 innings per season. Romero had surgery to repair a flexor tendon after 2009, and started the 2010 season on the disabled list. He said it took him a full two years to feel fully recovered. He's also lost some weight in the process, changed his training, and re-established himself.

"I feel real good," Romero said. "Being older also makes you understand the things you have to do. Before, when you're younger, you just wanna throw through a wall. When you get older, you start thinking about commanding your pitches and just pitching."

Joey Nowak is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @joeynowak. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.