Fernando Romero was untouchable in limited big league camp action this spring. And now, the Twins are ready for him to step on the real stage.
Minnesota called up its top pitching prospect to make his Major League debut Wednesday against Toronto at Target Field.
"He's been pretty good," Twins manager Paul Molitor told MLB.com. "He's had some command issues down there as well. We know that he's got high-end stuff. It's fun to watch him pitch. Not lacking in confidence."
Romero pitched eight hitless innings with eight strikeouts over four scoreless outings in Grapefruit League play. The only baserunner against MLB.com's No. 66 overall prospect was Astros' Drew Ferguson, who reached on a walk and was quickly erased on a double play.
"Last year, his first year in big league camp, he thought he was going to make the team, which was good," Molitor told the site with a laugh. "This year, I think he handled everything a little bit better and he understood the things that he had to do to get here. You're not sure if he's going to take it and run with it right away."
The 23-year-old right-hander signed with Minnesota on Nov. 4, 2011. Since then, Romero has showcased his 70-grade fastball at each level of the Minors. In 324 1/3 career innings, the Dominican Republic native is 23-17 with a 2.38 ERA, 314 strikeouts and 102 walks in 73 games (57 starts).
Romero cruised last season with Double-A Chattanooga and it looked like he could be a September callup, but a right shoulder impingement cut his season short on Aug. 28. The right-hander went 0-1 with a 2.57 ERA, 20 strikeouts and 10 walks in 21 innings across four games (three starts) for Triple-A Rochester this season. Romero's opening month was highlighted by a 10-punchout performance on April 22 against Columbus.
"His fastball is alive," Molitor told the site. "He's really gained a lot of confidence in his changeup. It's a swing and miss pitch for him. His slider has been probably the most inconsistent pitch, which he needs, especially for a chase pitch to right-handed hitters. I don't think it will be too big for this kid, the moment and all those type of things."
In a corresponding move, the Twins sent right-hander Phil Hughes to the bullpen.