Rookies Romano, Williams face off in finale

Rookies Romano, Williams face off in finale

The Reds sent Sal Romano to the Minors during Spring Training, as did the Pirates with Trevor Williams. On Sunday, the rookie right-handers will oppose each other as key members of their rotations when the clubs close out a three-game series at PNC Park.

The 24-year-old Romano is 2-0 with a 2.70 ERA in 20 innings over his past three starts after posting a 2-5 record and 6.05 ERA in his first eight big league starts. He was summoned to the big club sooner than expected in April to replace injured righty Rookie Davis. After pitching three innings against the Brewers in his debut, he was sent back down and did not pitch in a Reds uniform until July 6.

Romano (4-5, 4.91) has recently found his groove. Reds manager Bryan Price attributes his improvement mainly to "command and confidence and getting acclimated." Part of that, said Price, is due to a better use of his changeup.

Williams (5-7, 4.37), who made seven appearances (one start) in 2016, returned to the Pirates in early April and pitched out of the bullpen until he replaced Jameson Taillon (testicular cancer surgery) for a May 8 start against the Dodgers, which didn't go well (six earned runs in three innings).

But he has rebounded, and against the same powerful Dodgers on Aug. 23, Williams authored a gem, firing eight scoreless innings in a Pirates' 1-0 win in extra innings. Afterward, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle was impressed with Williams' poise.

"He looks like a guy who's got more time in [the Majors] than he has," said Hurdle.

Three things to know about this game

• In the two starts prior to his gem against the Dodgers, Williams gave up 11 earned runs in nine innings.

• Jordy Mercer's 12 home runs are the most by a Pirates shortstop since Pat Meares hit 13 in 2000.

• Romano's start will mark the 63rd by a Reds rookie pitcher this season (in 137 games).

Bob Cohn is a contributor to MLB.com based in Pittsburgh. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.