Like many pitchers, JoJo Romero is most comfortable when opposing hitters are uncomfortable. So far, he's made Florida State League hitters very uncomfortable.
The Phillies' No. 24 prospect gave up one hit and struck out nine over six innings on Saturday as Class A Advanced Clearwater blanked Dunedin, 3-0, at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium.
"That's our job. Our job is to make the hitters feel as uncomfortable as possible with your tempo, mixing speeds, changing locations," he said. "So it's kind of a thrill for me when you see a hitter up there guessing or taking pitches because they don't know what's coming. I feed off that as well and it gets me in a good rhythm."
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Romero (1-1) cruised in his second strong outing since a promotion from Class A Lakewood. Even when the 20-year-old worked out of the stretch, he never wavered, working around six baserunners over the first four innings.
"I just stick to the game plan that me and the catcher [ Austin Bossart ] have set forth. We like to pitch to ground-ball contact," the southpaw said after issuing three walks. "And knowing that I have a guy on base, I just have to do a good job of keeping him close to the bag, not get a big lead, so we can stick to that game plan of getting a ground ball and getting a double play, which we did in the [second]."
Romero settled into a groove, retiring his final seven batters en route to his sixth win of the season across the two levels.
"Usually around that time, I get a little rhythm going and I keep a quick pace with that," he said. "Just attacking the hitters and pitch to my strengths, keep them off-balance with speeds and work in and out of the zone. And I think that's been the biggest difference because they haven't been able to get into a nice groove up there. And that's helped me as well."
To kick off his full-season debut, Romero posted a 2.11 ERA and 79 punchouts over 76 2/3 innings in 13 South Atlantic League starts. In two Florida State League outings, the Yavapai College product has yielded an unearned run on four hits and five walks with 19 strikeouts over 12 1/3 frames.
"I've had a couple walks because the hitters are a lot better, so I think I need to adjust to that more," he said. "[Bossart's] really good at communicating with me on what I want to throw in certain counts, so I think that's helped me out a lot and allowed me to work quick. So just the game-calling by the catcher, Bossart, I think that's the biggest difference in everything."
Tyler Gilbert fanned five over two perfect frames and Jeff Singer worked around two hits by fanning two in the ninth for his league-leading 17th save.
Phillies No. 10 prospect Cornelius Randolph, No. 27 prospect Jose Pujols and Emmanuel Marrero each plated a run for the Threshers.
Dunedin starter Jordan Romano (4-4), the Blue Jays' No. 22 prospect, allowed three runs on five hits and three walks with three strikeouts over seven innings.