The lone bright spot in the Phillies' miserable series opener in Atlanta this weekend was JoJo Romero, the young left-hander who struck out the side on 12 pitches in his MLB debut Friday.
Romero struck out Adam Duvall with a slider in a three-pitch at-bat, then struck out Austin Riley and Johan Camargo with changeups. It was an impressive first showing, especially against three opposite-handed hitters.
Romero, 24 in two weeks, has a chance to seize an opportunity in the Phillies' bullpen. Jose Alvarez, the Phils' top lefty reliever, is on the injured list with a testicular contusion suffered on a comebacker Thursday. Romero should see plenty of chances as the first or second lefty out of the 'pen. Right now, it's just him and Adam Morgan.
"It was everything I thought of, but I didn't even think it was gonna go that way at the same time. It was pretty awesome," Romero said of his debut.
His fastball averaged 95 mph and he hit 96. Romero had been stretched out at Lehigh Valley, the Phillies' alternate site, and all 75 of his career minor-league appearances have been starts. Like most pitchers, his fastballs plays up out of the bullpen because he can let it go in shorter bursts.
"I think just me using my fastball a little more aggressively is gonna play really big," Romero said. "You saw the little uptick in velocity. I'm hoping to do that day-in and day-out. I think I've made really big strides with my changeup. I feel it's always been a good pitch of mine but recently, it's been more of a swing-and-miss pitch. I'm hoping to build off of that.
"Being able to rely on just fastball, changeup, slider, being able to be aggressive out of the gate, it should help me a lot."