Halos get Romero in swap with Twins

Halos get lefty Romero in swap with Twins

ANAHEIM -- The Angels took the next step in bolstering their pitching staff by acquiring left-handed reliever J.C. Romero from the Twins in exchange for Minor League infielder Alexi Casilla.

To make room for Romero on the 40-man roster, the Angels designated catcher Josh Paul for assignment.

General manager Bill Stoneman was unable to swing a deal at the recently concluded Winter Meetings in Dallas, but he had plenty of discussions and central to many of those was finding pitching depth.

The Angels lost free agent Paul Byrd to the Indians and have chosen to not re-sign left-hander Jarrod Washburn. Prior to the meetings, the club signed right-hander Hector Carrasco, who will compete for the fifth spot in the rotation.

In Romero, the Angels not only get a pitcher who can handle setup chores along with right-hander Scot Shields but he gives them that coveted left-hander, something the Angels have been without since Scott Schoeneweis left during the 2003 season.

"You guys reminded us more than we wanted to hear that we didn't have a left-hander in the bullpen," Stoneman said jokingly on a conference call with reporters.

Romero, who mixes a sinker and fastball, went 9-2 with a 1.89 ERA in 81 relief appearances for the Twins in 2002, but his numbers have not been quite as impressive since. Last season, Romero was 4-3 with a 3.47 ERA in 68 appearances with 48 strikeouts and 39 walks.

The 29-year-old had some run-ins with Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, which Romero said were mostly miscommunication issues about how he was used. In 2002, Romero was a consistent seventh- and eighth-inning guy, but over the last two years his role had become less predictable and he feels his numbers were a reflection of that.

"I'm the type of guy that the more I pitch, the better I get," said Romero, who is currently playing winter ball in Puerto Rico. "I know I have to be comfortable with my role."

Stoneman, who said that Romero was acquired to pitch for the Angels and not simply to be included in a future deal, feels a couple of mechanical issues have also reduced his effectiveness in the last two seasons.

"We've questioned his pitch selection and obviously his command has to improve," Stoneman said. "How much that has to do with what was going on in his head remains to be seen. But we feel there is plenty to work with. There is plenty of arm there. This is not an aging guy."

Stoneman and Romero both feel a change of scenery will help and the Angels had long been on Romero's wish list as a trade destination.

"I'm going there to pitch in any situation," said Romero, who knows bullpen coach Orlando Mercado, catcher Jose Molina, Adam Kennedy and Garret Anderson. "I want to pitch. I like to pitch, and I love to win."

Signed as a free agent out of the Dominican Republic in February 2003, Casilla made three stops in the system for the Angels last season. He hit .325 in 78 games at Class A Cedar Rapids, .211 in seven games at Double-A Arkansas and .256 in 13 games at Triple-A Salt Lake.

The Angels were high on Casilla, but felt the reward of getting Romero outweighed the costs.

"This is a player whose highest level is mostly Class A, but he can play," Stoneman said of Casilla, who suffered a broken hand last year. "The Twins have a pretty good record of identifying good players at low levels and acquiring them. We liked Alexi a lot, but we also liked J.C Romero a lot."

Paul hit .189 with a double, two home runs and four RBIs in 34 games with the Angels last season, but may best be remembered for his play in Game 2 of the ALCS. Paul felt he made a clean catch of a third strike with two-out in the ninth inning of a tie game and ran to the dugout.

Home plate umpire Doug Eddings seemingly made an out motion with his hand, but made no audible call and said afterward that he merely called it strike three, feeling that Paul had not made a clean catch.

The batter, A.J. Pierzynski, realizing the situation, ran to first and was awarded the bag. Pinch-runner Pablo Ozuna then stole second and scored on Joe Crede's game-winning double. The White Sox went on to win the series and then defeated the Astros in a four-game sweep of the World Series.

Mike Scarr is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.