Decision 2013: H-Rod or Romero

I may be among some of the last people on this planet who still believe in Henry Rodriguez, but I still believe in Henry Rodriguez. Anyone that has watched him pitch over the last two seasons has seen the flashes of brilliance like the time he was so dominant David Ross bunted with two strikes and two outs, or the time he made the Reds look foolish in route to getting a save on just 10 pitches. But it cannot be denied that Henry Rodriguez has pitched poorly this spring. He has walked ten batters and struck out only seven in 8 2/3 innings pitched against talent that Baseball Reference ranks around the AA level.

From the looks of things the Nationals are more than likely going to start Henry Rodriguez on the DL. He hasn't gotten it together in a number of days and has pitched like the strike zone is a mystery worthy of Hercule Poirot. He could use the time in extended spring or AA to find even a modicum of command, because even in a mop-up role a 10.4 BB/9 is going to turn a blowout into either a bigger blowout or a close game, and it could end up that the other Nationals relievers can't put out the fire that Henry Rodriguez is going to start.

The fact that Henry Rodriguez hasn't pitched well enough to earn a job on the Opening Day roster doesn't mean JC Romero should. Romero has pitched only two innings walking one and striking out one, but for his career command has been as much a mystery for him as it has Henry Rodriguez. Romero's career BB/9 of 5.1 is only slightly better than Rodriguez's of 5.8, and Romero doesn't have the benefit of being able to miss bats as his career K/9 is only 7.2. What Romero can do is pitch to lefties, but if it comes down to it with the game on the line it would still be better to have Mattheus, Stammen, Clippard, Storen, or Soriano in there against Joey Votto, Jason Heyward, or Chase Utley. 

Romero in recent seasons has not been a good pitcher. His ERA in 36 2/3 innings over his last two seasons at the major league level is 5.65 and he has spent time in the majors with the Phillies, Rockies, Cardinals, and Orioles as well as part of the Nationals, Yankees, and Indians minor league systems. No team has been interested in keeping Romero for longer than the 16 1/3 innings he pitched for the Phillies in 2011. JC Romero has had very limited success at getting outs at the major and minor league levels over the last couple seasons. This is not the pitcher the Nationals need to replace Henry Rodriguez. 

This means we've reached a cross roads. Henry Rodriguez hasn't shown he is ready for the start of the major league season and the guy the Nats have remaining in camp has all but proven he is no longer a major league pitcher. The answer to this is simple. Henry Rodriguez should start the season on the DL, and JC Romero should not come north with the team. The player that deserves the final roster spot is a newly made reliever and by seasons end will be in the Nationals bullpen. Some may question if he is ready but he was in Nats camp early in Spring Training and in 8 innings pitched against the same level of competition that both Henry Rodriguez and JC Romero faced put up a 1.13 ERA, 9.0 K/9, and most importantly a 2.3 BB/9. Eight innings is an extremely small sample size, but over 48 appearances and 73 innings pitched this pitcher in his first full season as a reliever had a 2.71 ERA with a 9.1 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9.

This pitcher is Nationals prospect Erik Davis and he is more deserving of being the Nats 25th man on the roster than either Henry Rodriguez or JC Romero. He is another right hander, but he is a talented right hander, and a talented right handed pitching prospect should be able to beat out an untalented left handed LOOGY. The big thing about Erik Davis is that in 48 appearances he pitched 73 innings. That is an average of 1.5 innings pitched an appearance. The only two Nationals relievers that came close to that in 2012 were Craig Stammen and Tom Gorzelanny. With Stammen moving up in the pecking order from long reliever Davis could slide into that vacated spot, pitch in low pressure innings, and give the Nationals a stronger and deeper bullpen than either Henry Rodriguez or JC Romero are capable of doing right now.

Erik Davis is the future of the Nationals bullpen, and while he was sent out from camp a while ago he pitched against no less competition than Henry Rodriguez or JC Romero have, and outperformed both. He also has a track record of excellent control and strikeout stuff in the minor leagues. Erik Davis is the future of the Nationals bullpen. He offers higher upside than JC Romero and better production than Henry Rodriguez, and if the Nats are trying to pick their seven best relievers for Opening Day then Erik Davis is the seventh.

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