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Romero's attack mentality could play well as Phillies seek to improve 2021 bullpen

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As baseball's offseason takes shape, we will take a look at each player on the Phillies 2020 roster and where they fit in the future. We'll go through the roster by uniform number, lowest to highest for position players, highest to lowest for pitchers, and alternate daily.

Today: Reliever JoJo Romero

Career rundown

The 24-year-old left-hander’s given name is Joseph, but he’s JoJo to his baseball friends. After working as a starter for three-plus seasons in the Phillies' minor-league system, Romero began a conversion to the bullpen in the Arizona Fall League last year. The move could end up being a good one — for the pitcher and the team. Romero’s fastball has played bigger in short bullpen spurts and he’s shown the kind of fearless, attack mentality that relievers need to be good.

How he became a Phillie

The Phillies selected Romero as a starter in the fourth round of the 2016 draft out of Yavapai College in Arizona, the same school where Curt Schilling, Ken Giles and many other major-leaguers pitched.

2020 season 

Romero enjoyed an unforgettable big-league debut when he struck out the side on 12 pitches at Atlanta on Aug. 21. Six of his first seven outings were scoreless and he gave up just three hits over that span. Manager Joe Girardi’s confidence in the rookie grew down the stretch, but Romero struggled in some pressure situations over the final 10 days of the season. He twice was bruised for three runs in brief outings and his ERA swelled to 7.59.

 

Despite the high ERA, Romero showed much promise in his rookie cameo. He struck out 10 and walked just two in 10⅔ innings. His four-seam fastball sat consistently at 95 mph and touched 97. He also used a sinker, a slider and a changeup. Lefty hitters were just 5 for 22 (.227) against him while righties were 8 for 20 (.400).

What lies ahead

From his aggressive mentality to the power he showed with his fastball, there was a lot to like about what Romero did in 12 big-league outings in 2020. The Phillies have a lot of work to do this offseason to improve the worst bullpen in the majors. Romero looks like someone who can contribute in 2021, maybe even toward the end of games. He will go to Clearwater in February with a good chance to lock up a spot in the season-opening bullpen.