This isn’t quite how the Nats hoped things to shake out early, but the team’s supply of southpaw relievers has now been exhausted. The team placed Sam Freeman on the IL earlier today.
Details of Doolittle’s injury aren’t yet known. The placement surely also reflects his difficulties on the mound. He has made it through three total innings in five appearances, coughing up five earned runs while recording only two strikeouts. Doolittle’s velocity has fallen off a cliff, declining three full ticks on average versus 2019.
When the Nats picked Romero in the first round of the 2017 draft, there were whispers that the team might speed him through the system for a near-term relief role. It took some time, and required a few ups and downs but he’s now headed to the majors to work out of the pen.
Romero has averaged 13.1 K/9 in the minors, but that’s in a minimal sample of 47 1/3 innings. His 2019 campaign was wiped out entirely by Tommy John surgery, though that’s now nearly two years in the rearview mirror.
In the long run, the hope surely remains that Romero will turn into a rotation piece. For now, the Nationals need to address the immediate need and will give him a shot to carve out a place on the pitching staff.