The Houston Chronicle reported on Wednesday that Houston pitcher Seth Romero has been dismissed from the Cougars’ program. The dismissal was triggered by a fight between Romero and a teammate, and seems to have been the final straw for Houston coach Todd Whitting. The dismissal marked the third time Whitting has had to publicly reprimand his star southpaw in the past 14 months.
Prior to the dismissal, Romero was considered a potential top-10 pick in the upcoming MLB draft—he struggled this season in the three games following a four-game absence due to suspension; he dropped all three, leaving him with 4-5 record and 3.51 ERA. But Romero led the NCAA with 15.72 strikeouts per nine innings, and until this latest development was thought to be one of the premier hurlers in the 2017 draft.
Last season, Romero was suspended for a pair of games at the top of the schedule due to “lack of effort regarding conditioning.” He dropped weight and finished the season strong, earning himself a spot on the 2017 preseason All-America list. After making seven starts this year, Romero served a three-week suspension starting April 9 over “a failed drug test, breaking curfew on a road trip, and appearing in uniform in a photograph holding a bong,” per the Chronicle, which broke the story of the causes behind Romero’s suspension on May 2.
Romero was allegedly shagging balls during a round of batting practice ahead of one of Houston’s games during their March 24-26 series at UC Irvine when he slipped behind the outfield wall and was approached by “a few kids” looking for a photo. At some point, he was handed a bong and a picture was taken (if you have said picture, email us!), though Romero denies ripping it before the game.
After the report was published, Chronicle reporter Joseph Duarte,was blackballed by Houston head coach Todd Whitting for doing his job. The 44-year-old coach withheld his players from speaking to Duarte and refused to answer his questions at Sunday’s postgame press conference, claiming the Chronicle reporter “threw my program under the bus.”
The Houston Press reports, through anonymous sources, that Whitting was upset with some of Duarte’s past reporting, including a June 2016 article detailing Whitting’s interest in the Texas head coaching gig, believing it was overly speculative. The Houston coach also reportedly takes offense to the fact that Duarte, who covers the entire Houston athletic department, does not attend and write up every single Cougars baseball game. Neither Whitting or any school official has gone on-record to deny any facet of Duarte’s reporting.
Meanwhile, Whitting’s dismissal of Romero may end up costing the junior up to $2 million in potential earnings. This will depend on whether MLB teams value his upside—a mean, mid-90s fastball and slider with a penchant for making batters whiff—as being worth the risk of using a first-round pick on a pitcher who occasionally (and allegedly) brawls with teammates and sneaks out for some quick bong pics.