Enny Romero’s first pitch as a National didn’t go quite where he wanted it to go. Nor did it produce the kind of reaction he or anyone else in the park Wednesday night could have foreseen.
Summoned by manager Dusty Baker to pitch the seventh inning with his team up four runs, Romero threw his very first pitch inside to Derek Dietrich, striking the Marlins third baseman in the elbow with a 98 mph fastball.
Dietrich, who was one of two Miami batters hit by starter Tanner Roark earlier in the game, had words for Romero as he walked down the first base line, plate umpire Ron Kulpa accompanying him the entire way.
This confused Romero, who couldn’t fathom why Dietrich would have thought there was any purpose behind the wayward fastball.
“First pitch, I want to throw out over the plate,” he said. “I hit Dietrich, but it’s not on purpose. I don’t want to hit the first batter of the inning.”
Was there some kind of history between the two competitors? Actually, yes, but not acrimonious. They happened to be teammates in the Rays’ farm system from 2010-12.
“We were teammates in Tampa,” Romero said. “We played in different leagues, like, four years before they traded him to Miami. I don’t want to hit him because I don’t want to put the first batter that inning on base. We’re winning by four. I don’t understand. That’s why I was looking at him and saying: ‘Go to the base. I don’t want to hit you.’ “
Dietrich settled down, but his manager did not. Don Mattingly came out of the dugout to argue with Kulpa, who quickly gave the skipper the heave-ho, prompting even more arguing.
Mattingly told reporters afterward his beef was that Kulpa issued warnings to both dugouts after the Romero pitch, even though only one team had been hit by any pitches during the course of the game.
“We got hit three times and we got a warning,” Mattingly said. “That doesn’t seem quite right.”
The odd sequence was just the beginning of an eventful Nationals debut for Romero, who gave up a single after the hit-by-pitch but then escaped the jam by inducing a double-play grounder and striking out Dee Gordon, with one of his fastballs registering 100 mph.
Baker then let the young lefty return to the mound for the eighth inning, though he didn’t stay out there long after surrendering a home run to J.T. Realmuto and a single to Christian Yelich.
“He threw the ball great,” Baker said. “We took him into the second inning because he had pitched two innings in the (World Baseball Classic, for the Dominican Republic). As long as he throws strikes, that was what we were most concerned about. He was throwing strikes with his fastball, and with his breaking ball. When you catch up to that fastball, much like Aroldis Chapman, the ball goes a long ways because he’s providing the speed and distance by the velocity of his fastball.”
It was an eventful debut for Romero in a curly W cap, but one he emerged with a positive take.
“That’s good for me,” he said. “The second inning, I threw too many breaking balls. That’s the cutter in the middle that the catcher hit a homer. But it’s good for me to throw the second inning. My arm feels good, and I can throw two, three innings if they want.”