Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 3/14/12
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- When Sergio Romo cruised past friends in his charcoal gray used 1993 Ford Thunderbird as a high school senior in Brawley, Calif., he beamed with pride. It was not the flashiest of rides, but it was his first car, and he was proud to have earned it. "My dad's always made me earn everything I've had," Romo said. "I've had to work for it." He had to maintain the car himself and gas it up, too. And if he wanted to drive it, he had to keep his grades up. As you might expect, the experience taught him a thing or two about work ethic. Now a relief pitcher for the San Francisco Giants, Romo is grateful for the lessons. Much like that first car, Romo now takes great pride in working tirelessly to maintain the reputation he's earned as one of baseball's premier relief specialists. "I feel that I've built a pretty decent name for myself in the game," Romo said. "I want to keep progressing that. I don't want to be a one-hit wonder. I want to prove to everyone that I can stay here for the long run." Most would say Romo, who just turned 29, has produced more than one 'hit' already considering he's had an ERA of 2.18 or lower and a WHIP under 1.00 in three of his four big league seasons. The 2011 season was his best yet, as he posted a 1.50 ERA and a league best 0.71 WHIP while allowing just 34 base-runners in 48 innings. In a 15-game stretch from July 4 through Aug.6 last season, Romo retired 31 consecutive batters. He compiled 70 strikeouts and just five walks for 14-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, tops in the Majors in a wide margin. (Koji Uehara was next at 9.44). Except for a mid-August stint on the disabled list, it's hard to imagine anything Romo could have done better in 2011, but the right-hander, a 28th-round draft pick out of Mesa State in in Grand Junction, Colo., refuses to be content with his results. "I do understand that the season I had last year statistically doesn't come around a whole lot," Romo said. "I don't know if I can improve on what I did last year statistically. But I do know my pitches, the quality of my pitches I throw, the way I execute, the way I carry myself, just being a professional yeah, there's a ton of ways I can improve." A case could be made that on a team known for exceptional pitching, Romo was the Giants' best pitcher last season, but as a setup man his value is sometimes forgotten. With the likes of Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain starting games and flamboyant Brian Wilson finishing them, the guys doing the dirty work in between tend to fly under the radar. A fellow reliever, though, certainly understands the value of a lights out setup man. Javier Lopez, Romo's left-handed counterpart in the bullpen, has become pretty familiar with Romo's intense drive for constant improvement and just what makes him tick. "First and foremost, he's an aggressive personality on the mound," Lopez said of Romo. "He likes to attack, and that's part of where he gets his success. He just goes out there knowing he has a dominant slider and when it's on he'll take on anybody. He likes the competition and the confrontation that brings. That's one of the biggest things he's got going. "If it comes down to a situation where I get beat on a lefty and I know a righty I coming in, I have full confidence Romo's going to come in and get the guy out." Lopez said. Romo's insistence on improvement isn't anything unusual in the San Francisco bullpen, it's just that he might be a little more intense about it. "I want to be good," Romo said. "I don't want to just be average. I want to be remembered, and I dont think people really remember the average." That, Romo said, is one of his career goals -- to be remembered, but not as someone who had a few great seasons and disappeared. It would mean much more to him to be seen as a model of consistency and professionalism over the course of a long career. "It's harder to stay in the big leagues than it is to make it in the big leagues," Romo said. "I'm ready for that challenge, and I'm not afraid of that challenge." As for the Thunderbird? It only lasted four years before being totaled in a wreck. Romo's career seems destined for a much longer run.
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