What to make of Romero's latest transgression

It wouldn't be a stretch to say that left-hander Seth Romero could be running out of chances with the Nationals.

News that the 25-year-old left-hander was arrested Friday morning in Sweeny, Texas, on a charge of driving while intoxicated is only the latest misstep in a checkered career for the 25th overall selection in the 2017 First-Year Player Draft, who has just three major league relief appearances in the 2020 campaign on his register.

Romero was released on a $5,000 bond, according to published reports. Officials in Brazoria County, Texas, said that it could take up to 10 business days for the arrest record for the incident to be released, according to The Washington Post.

Last season, Romero pitched at four levels of the Nationals system, finishing the campaign at Triple-A Rochester, where he posted a 2.25 ERA in one four-inning start. In 11 starts between the Rookie-level Florida Complex League, low Single-A Fredericksburg, Double-A Harrisburg and Rochester, Romero went 0-2 with a 5.30 ERA, 1.626 WHIP and 13.9 strikeouts per nine innings.

Those 11 outings and 35 2/3 innings pitched represented his highest workload in three minor league seasons, although his development has been interrupted by multiple injuries and the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, when he pitched mostly at the major league club's alternate camp in Fredericksburg before making his major league debut.

Nats-Park-Tarp-Fisheye-sidebar.jpgAnd while Romero is presumed innocent until proven guilty, his latest transgression continues a pattern of dubious off-the-field choices that date to his college days at the University of Houston.

* As a sophomore, he was suspended for what was called "conduct detrimental to the team," though the Houston Chronicle reported that a lack of effort in conditioning led to the action.

* In his junior year at Houston, Romero was suspended for almost a month for violating team rules during a road trip to play at Central Florida. The Chronicle reported that the ban was partly because Romero had tested positive for marijuana. A week later, he was dismissed from the team for fighting with another player, according to the Chronicle.

* Romero's stock slipped in the pre-draft rankings because of the off-the-field issues, and after the Nationals selected him in the draft, Romero was sent home from spring training in March 2018 for violating club policy.

With the Nationals needing bullpen reinforcements in August 2020, Romero made his major league debut against the Mets, but soon went on the injured list with a fractured right hand. A stress fracture in his ribs delayed his first appearance in 2021 until July 1.

Once he returned to action, Romero made 11 starts at four minor league levels, but never pitched more than five innings in two outings for Harrisburg: Aug. 10 against New Hampshire and Aug. 21 at Akron in his last start before being promoted to Triple-A. Four other starts were for four innings, a clear indication that the Nationals were limiting his pitch count and innings given his injury history.

But by finishing the year with Rochester, Romero was just one step away from returning to the big leagues. And with the Nationals short on left-handed relief, he could have challenged for a bullpen spot in spring training or even worked his way into the rotation conversation with a strong camp.

However, Romero's most recent transgression could cloud his future with the Nats. General manager Mike Rizzo has little patience for unprofessional behavior and in the past has acted swiftly to distance himself from players who have crossed a line.

The ongoing lockout adds an interesting wrinkle to Romero's misstep in Texas. Because Romero is on the 40-man roster, the Nationals cannot have any contact with him. Romero cannot be disciplined until the lockout is over, and the team cannot make any decisions regarding his roster status.

"We are aware of the incident involving Seth Romero," the Nationals said in a statement. "We are working to gather more information and will refrain from making further comments at this time."

Romero was preparing to come to spring training in West Palm Beach, hoping to force his way onto the major league roster amid a rebuild. Now it looks like more reputation repair is in order, and that's something the Nationals have to consider when weighing the value of his left arm against a list of off-the-field issues that continues to grow.

The Washington Post was first to report on Romero's DWI arrest.

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