Over the last week or so, the Phillies have completely revamped their bullpen. Only three pitchers who made the Opening Day roster remain on the active roster in Hector Neris, Adam Morgan and Tommy Hunter. New faces like Brandon Workman, Heath Hembree and David Phelps, acquired yesterday from Milwaukee, now hold prominent late inning roles.
I haven’t seen Phelps pitch in the red pinstripes yet, but as of now, the boost that JoJo Romero has given this team is more impressive than Workman, Hembree and David Hale.
The quality of southpaws coming out of the bullpen took a major hit when Jose Alvarez was placed of the injured list with a testicular contusion (OUCH). With the inconsistencies of Morgan to start 2020, the former fourth round pick from Yavapai Junior College was going to have to pick up some of the slack for the missing Alvarez. In three innings pitched, which I understand is a small sample size, Romero has looked the part of a dominant lefty out of the pen.
Armed with a sinking fastball that averages 95.2 mph, Romero brings a confidence and swagger that the bullpen has desperately needed. His pace and demeanor on the mound are that of a starting pitcher, allowing him to very easily keep the hitters off balance. He pairs his heater with a changeup that looks to be a devastating out pitch to both righties and lefties. It comes from the same arm angle and speed as the fastball, just around 10 mph slower, while disappearing once it gets to the plate. He used it against Yan Gomes last night, striking him out and fist pumping on his way to the dugout. His slider, which he has thrown 39% of the time in his short run in the Majors, is a an average pitch that he can use to back foot over aggressive righties.
While his current strikeout stuff never really existed while he was in the starting rotation, his stuff didn’t nearly have as much bite as he has shown in the short bullpen spurts. The Phillies had been letting him develop as a starter up until this year, but his performance out of the bullpen might be changing some of the organization’s developmental plan with him. It is very unlikely that a 5’11, 200 lb pitcher like Romero would be able to pitch like this with a starter’s workload, and I think that this team has a bigger need for a southpaw who can pitch multiple innings out of the bullpen. I don’t see him being moved back into the rotation now, but that’s not a bad thing.
Actually, he has pitched so well that the aforementioned Hale, who the Phillies gave up an interesting young pitcher for, may be DFA’d when they activate Phelps today.
The soon to be 24-year-old will be pitching meaningful innings in the Majors down the stretch, the dream for any pitcher aspiring to be in the Big Leagues. Looking at how he has handled the first three innings he has pitched, he looks more than ready to contribute on the way to, hopefully, a playoff berth.
If anything, his hair/mustache combo is, already, arguably the best lettuce in the game today. Sorry Dustin May, but I got to go with my man JoJo.
Let’s hope his performance can keep up with the brillance of the flow he has coming out from the back of his hat.
The Phillies need it to.