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11/06/08 8:21 PM EST

Romo feels at home in Mexicali

Giants reliever hones craft, hopes to play in World Baseball Classic

It's no accident that Sergio Romo is performing comfortably for the Mexicali Eagles in the Mexican Pacific League.

Romo has thrived for the Eagles, recording a 2.89 ERA and converting six saves in seven chances over nine relief appearances. Working primarily on his changeup, he has struck out 13 and walked one -- maintaining the command he demonstrated this year as he compiled 33 strikeouts and eight walks in 34 innings for the Giants.

Romo, a leading candidate to claim a setup role with San Francisco next year, might amass such statistics for any Winter League team. But he's particularly at ease in Mexicali. Romo's a native of Brawley, Calif., a 15-minute drive from Mexicali. He recalled that when he was 11, he frequently ventured to Mexicali to play baseball, an activity favored year-round by youths and adults alike.

"It's like my hometown," Romo said recently. "I'm proud to wear that label."

Romo, whose parents are Mexican, might deepen his connection with the country next year. He hopes to be selected to play for Mexico in next spring's World Baseball Classic. Demonstrating his desire to participate in the Classic, Romo named virtually the entire 2006 Mexican roster, which included established Major Leaguers such as Jorge Cantu, Juan Castro, Vinny Castilla, Adrian Gonzalez and Dennys Reyes.

Romo's resume indicates that he has little to worry about. He has been impervious to prolonged slumps in four professional seasons, posting a 24-5 record in the Minors and finishing 3-1 with a 2.12 ERA in 29 games for the Giants this year. His balanced results against left- and right-handed batters further illustrated his consistency. Lefties hit .083 against him, while right-handers mustered a .176 average.

Romo eclipsed Tyler Walker as the Giants' top right-handed setup choice toward the end of the season. Romo strengthened his grip on that status by finishing the year with 17 2/3 scoreless innings from Aug. 18 on, prompting the Giants to cut ties with Walker last month.

Not bad for a guy who wasn't even in Major League camp last Spring Training. Then again, the mound seems to be Romo's home, whether it's in Mexicali or someplace else.

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