Although he didn't get a call-up to the big league roster at the end of 2013, the Mariners obviously remain very high on their 2012 Minor League Player of the Year Stefen Romero. The 25-year-old now outfielder gave SeattleClubhouse's Rick Randall some time after the main Q&A session last Thursday to talk about this past year, adjusting to a new position and the upcoming season.
SeattleClubhouse: Thanks for doing this again, Stefen. It's great to catch up with you again.
Stefen Romero: Yeah, you bet Rick.
SC: Well, first off, this has to be a pretty cool experience for you being invited in here as one of only three young guys in the organization, right? Having the media fawn over you.
SR: Yeah, I mean, being asked to be here with Taijuan [Walker] and [Mike] Zunino is an honor. And obviously they didn't want to put them together up there because of their [nearly matching] shirts.
SC: Yeah, you missed out on the color coordination memo, huh?
SR: I guess so.
SC: So I asked you up there how many different gloves you were bringing with you to spring training, where do you feel that you are in the whole process of becoming a true outfielder and has that transformation really hit you yet?
SR: I think it hit me back in April, really. We'd talked about me being worked in to the outfield -- exclusively in the outfield -- so I talked with my agent and had to rush order some [outfielder's] gloves, but through my progression in coming back from the oblique injury I was doing a lot of DH, off day, DH, off day. Then I remember I was in Las Vegas, I looked at the lineup one day and saw my name and it said, 'Romero: left field'. And I was like, 'What?!' They said, just go out there and do your best, hit your cutoff man and don't try to rush plays. You're going to feel uncomfortable, but just get the ball quick and hit your cutoff man and keep guys from taking an extra base. You'll start to feel more comfortable as you play more. I actually used one of [Alex] Liddi's gloves the first time I was out there.
SC: The last time that you and I talked you brought up that in coming back from your injury at Oregon State your first year here in the system they'd worked through some things with your throwing and you had basically learned at that time that you hadn't really been throwing correctly your whole life. So that was kind of re-learning to throw with a different motion. And now moving out to the outfield, there is a lot of longer, bigger arm circle-type stuff required for your longer throws, so now you're throwing different yet again. Has that part of the adjustment been a challenge for you?
SR: The thing is -- Liddi for example -- he has such a strong arm that he almost short arms the ball. So I feel like I don't always have to go back to the long arm, I think that if I work hard on my transfer and getting rid of the ball quickly -- obviously I'm going to do that with my feet and getting good reads and all that -- but if I just stick to the basics of making good throws, using good footwork and getting rid of the ball quickly, that's all it takes. Right now I'm doing a lot of drop step stuff, right shoulder, left shoulder, switching sides with my head, and just getting in those repetitions and doing the work over and over and over to help work in that comfort zone. Most of the time, really, you're just reacting.
SC: So as you worked through those repetitions and got more accustomed to what those natural reactions were, do you remember a time during last season when you actually started to feel comfortable, like, 'I'm an outfielder'?
SR: Yes. Until I had to go back into the infield for a spot start. (laughs) I think that was in Sacramento. I showed up and they asked me, 'You have your infield glove, right?" and I said, 'Uh...I think so.' So I played second base that whole game -- it felt...normal -- and then it was back out to the outfield. And like I've said before, I'm just going to try to do the best at that position that given day, regardless of the position that I'm at. Obviously if I get to the park and I see that I'm in the outfield for that day then everything that I do before the game is going to be related to getting ready to play in the outfield -- getting my reads, stuff like that -- and if I'm on the infield than I'll work on taking ground balls and stuff like that.
SC: So is their a first baseman's glove in your collection at the moment?
SR: Well, I don't personally have one, but I'm pretty sure I could find one somewhere if that's what they want me to do.
SC: Okay, on to the fun stuff; the hitting. Like your bosses said up there a while ago, the bat is going to determine when you're ready. Last year you had the oblique and then you had the wrist injury that nagged for a while. It seemed like there were things that popped up a few times in between, too, that maybe kind of took you out of your rhythm. Then you went on an absolute tear to end the year. Was that when you finally started feeling good and fully healthy?
SR: I was feeling good for most of the season, really, there were just those little nagging injuries that, as you go out Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday -- those little nicks or annoyances -- that can take you out of a game here and there. That last week or so of the season, though, I was healthy enough to where I was going out there every single day and, because of that, I feel that I was able to be a little more consistent in getting more consistent opportunities.
SC: And then it was off to the Arizona Fall League for a second time. Overall that maybe didn't go exactly how you wanted it to go, statistically, but the Fall Stars game was a big show for you. So, again, getting back to what was said by the GM and manager up there and the whole, 'we need a right-handed bat' narrative surrounding this team, do you feel like you have an opportunity out there entering this spring?
SR: Yeah, definitely. Obviously, being put on the 40-man roster was showing me that I'm in the plans for the future with Seattle. And that opens my eyes and makes me hungrier and makes me want to contribute that much more. So whatever opportunity that is afford me this spring, I want to be prepared and take full advantage of that, play to the best of my ability and really show the club what I can do. I can't really control the outcome, but I can do my best and hit the ball hard and give it my all each day.
SC: Touching on that mental aspect, you talked in the past about your reading of The Peaceful Warrior and what that book did for you as far as preparing you and teaching you that mindset that you need to get ahead. How much do you think that helps to separate you and how do you think it helps you, to steal a term from the Seahawks, to 'win the day'?
SR: Like you said, coaches and managers say all the time that the game is 90% mental. I wish that I would've read that book in college and used what I've gained by reading them in my every day life in college. Fortunately my buddy in Arizona sent me the book and told me I needed to check it out. So the book, to me, allowed me to really step back and look at my life as a whole and enabled me to see that even if baseball doesn't work out, it's still going to work out somewhere else, in some other way. That kind of takes pressure off of me from day to day because I realize that every day isn't do or die with baseball. I just wake up every day and thank God for all the blessings that I have and carry through my routine. If you've prepared yourself and know that you've prepared yourself than you know that you'll succeed. So that's what I really took away from reading those books. It's realizing that, not only being a baseball player, but using it in my every day life and being a better boyfriend, being a better son, being a better grandson and keeping in touch with the important people in my life. Just doing those little things can in a weird way help me with baseball. If your outside life is going well then your baseball life will be going well, too.
SC: I talked with Brad [Miller] about you around this time last year and he communicated to me that he was most impressed by you in your ability to treat each day the same. To be the same guy every day, whether it was following up an 0-for-4 or a 4-for-4. Now that you are closer, on the precipice of the big leagues, do you feel any additional pressure, has any of that focus waned?
SR: I'm still the same guy. I remember when [Eric] Wedge was here and he talked to a bunch of us minor leaguers. He said, "You need to wake up every morning and look yourself in the mirror and tell yourself, 'I'm a big league baseball player.'" So I really took that to heart and I do that every day. Over and over and over again until it is embedded in your subconscious. So even if you go out and have a bad BP or something. You can't allow the negative thoughts to enter your mind and think, 'oh, man, I should've hit that better', or, 'I should've made that play' or whatever. If you reinforce with that negative talk then you're going to be that. Last year when Brad was in Triple-A with me, we'd talk about stuff like this and he was really amazed by my mentality and how I incorporated everything into my game and my everyday life without letting the negatives affect me, and that's how I am.
SC: That's great, Stefen. I really enjoy speaking with you and hearing and feeling your calm about the climb and the whole process of being a baseball player. Thanks again, and we'll talk again soon, I'm sure.
SR: My pleasure Rick, thank you.
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