Phillies should give JoJo Romero a start

JoJo Romero #79 of the Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
JoJo Romero #79 of the Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /

JoJo Romero has made relief appearances in 22 games for the Philadelphia Phillies, but the 24-year-old has yet to make a major league start.

Romero has a recent history of getting off to a slow start at a new level — which could be why the minor-league starter has yet to throw the first pitch in a big-league game.

The left-handed pitcher has proven his ability to get better over time and the back of the Phillies rotation remains in question. Now would be a good time to give Romero a spot start, to see if he can be the rotation depth the team needs — at least for the short-term.

Now is a good time for the Phillies to give JoJo Romero his first MLB start.

With Double-A Reading in 2018, Romero gave up 53 hits and 21 walks, with a 5.55 ERA and 43 strikeouts, through 48 2/3 innings in the first half of his starts. In the second half, he gave up 44 hits and 20 walks, with a 2.33 ERA and 57 strikeouts, through 58 innings.

That second-half improvement continued in 2019 at Triple-A Lehigh Valley — where he gave up 33 runs (30 earned) in 28 innings before being moved back to Double-A. When Romero returned later in the season, he gave up 14 runs (11 earned) in 25 2/3 innings. That’s a 9.64 ERA in seven games, followed by a 3.86 ERA in six outings.

Overall, Romero posted a 3-5 record and 6.88 ERA in 13 Triple-A starts, with an 11-10 record and 4.16 ERA in 29 AA starts.

Given these stats, it’s not surprising to see the Phillies give JoJo Romero time.

Ramon Rosso got the start for his sixth game in the majors in 2020, despite a 5.50 ERA in 14 Triple-A starts. Adonis Medina was the starter in his MLB debut last year, with no Triple-A experience and a 4.94 ERA in 22 Double-A games (21 starts).

Spencer Howard also started his first major league game last year, with no experience higher than Double-A, but his 2.35 ERA in six starts at Reading — while being one of the team’s top prospects — made that less of a surprise.

The condensed schedule, filled with make-up games in an already shortened season — combined with a lack of depth in the starting rotation — could be why the Phillies gave younger pitchers opportunities last year. But, this year’s added rotation depth hasn’t made an immediate impact.

Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler and Zach Eflin remain the clear top three in the rotation, although Nola is the only starter with an ERA better than 3.49. Chase Anderson has a 5.40 ERA and 1.431 WHIP through five starts — with nine hits and seven runs surrendered in his last 5 2/3 innings.

Matt Moore gave up 13 runs (12 earned) in 11 innings before being sidelined by injury. Vince Velasquez took Moore’s spot in the rotation, posting a 3.77 ERA in three starts — including six innings of one-run ball in his most recent outing.

Phillies starters have been hit or miss this season overall — posting a 4.02 ERA and 1.232 WHIP through 30 games.

With a lack of rotation depth, the opportunity is there to give JoJo Romero a look.

Unlike his trend of improving over time at the Double- and Triple-A levels, Romero did well early before struggling late in his first MLB season last year. He gave up four runs (three earned), while striking out 10, through his first 9 1/3 innings — before giving up six earned runs, while recording no strikeouts, in his final 1 1/3 innings, across three games.

This season has returned to the improving trend so far, which could be a good sign of things to come. Romero’s rough stretch continued into his first three games of 2021 — giving up five earned runs off of five hits and a walk, with no strikeouts, in two innings.

But he’s looked good since — giving up five hits, two walks and two runs (one earned), while striking out eight, in 6 2/3 innings over his last seven games. That earned run was a Jackie Bradley Jr. home run in Tuesday night’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Giving Romero this extra time in the bullpen has provided him experience to get through his first major league slump. While his most recent outing wasn’t his best this season, it still continued an impressive streak of games. Plus, he’s now had time to adjust to the majors.

Why not give Romero a look in the rotation?

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