December 9, 2022

Phillies reliever Jo Jo Romero clears every hurdle of rehab

JoJo Romero didn’t have that painful moment when something in his left arm felt bad enough to cost him the rest of last season.

The biggest pain he felt was the news from an MRI that Tommy John’s surgery was needed.

“When they told me maybe they were leaning towards that,” Romero recalled, “I was like, ‘Wow, you know.’ My head fell.

“Hey, you hear about it all the time. And so I took my phone, I called my dad right away. And I told him about it and he kind of calmed me down a bit.

Romero’s 2021 season ended after that conversation. He had Tommy John surgery on his left elbow on May 25. The 25-year-old then started a throwing program the first week of October. He made eight rehab appearances in the Phillies’ minor league system entering Lehigh Valley’s Thursday game against visiting Rochester.

The 2016 fourth-round pick said there have been no mental or physical setbacks since the initial shock wore off.

“There are people you see throwing a throw and then automatically catching their arm and that’s never happened to me,” Romero said. “And it was one of those things where it was like for a week or two when my arm felt tight.

“I got to a point where we thought maybe the doctors should take a look and took all the tests and heard the news. It just caught me a little off guard.

Romero survived the slow recovery process. He worked hard on his lower half until it was time after the operation to start rebuilding his left arm.

The soft throw led to throwing a mound to eventually drop one.

Romero has a large arsenal of lands. He’s back for every throw, including a fastball that peaked in the upper 90s during his 2020-21 time with the Phillies.

“I would like to think that everything is back to how it was at the start,” he said. “Otherwise maybe a little better, coming out a little bit sharper and making it look like it comes out a lot better. And that was the beauty of it.

“There are a lot of things I learned right before I got injured, whether it was finger placement at different heights or what I’m trying to create or reviewing the analytic data on how I can improve my overall repertoire.And so, going through this rehab, it’s like you’re rebuilding like new.

Romero threw as many as 29 pitches in two innings with Double-A Reading. He pitched a 1-2-3 inning Thursday in Lehigh Valley’s 11-2 loss to Rochester, throwing all seven pitches for strikes.

The California resident said leaving Florida, where the Phillies’ spring training facility is located, felt like he was getting back to normal.

“Getting to the park at 1:30, spending all day, getting dressed, sitting in the bullpen with the guys,” he said, “it was just sitting there like, ‘Dang, c did I miss.”

Romero had a 7.00 ERA in 11 games in 2021 with the Phillies before the surgery. He’s 2-0 with two saves and a 2.08 ERA in eight rehab contests this season.

Connor Brogdon, who had been on the COVID list since June 25, made his first rehab start on Thursday for Lehigh Valley. He allowed singles to the first two batters, then had back-to-back strikeouts and a foul pop.

The right-hander threw 13 of 20 pitches for strikes, four of five strikes on the first pitch and had two swings and misses.

Infielder Nick Maton was 1 of 4 with a run and an RBI for Clearwater at low A. He was placed on the IL on June 5 with a sprained right shoulder.

IronPigs first-year pitching coach Cesar Ramos and the Double-A Reading duo of LHP Erik Miller and catcher Logan O’Hoppe will be part of the All-Star Futures game, to be held July 16 at Dodger Stadium. .

O’Hoppe is batting .270 this year for the Fightins, with team highs in RBIs (40), runs (42) and homers (14). He also has five stolen bases and a .992 field percentage. He returned Wednesday after missing nine games due to illness.

Miller is the Phillies’ No. 10 prospect. He has a 1.52 ERA in 13 outings, seven starts. He struck out 30 and allowed four runs on 14 hits (no homers) in 23 2/3 innings. He recovered from last year’s sprained left shoulder, but was placed on the development roster June 9.

The Futures 2022 game features a National League vs. American League format. The seven-inning match begins at 7 p.m. on Peacock and SiriusXM.

Two-time World Series champion and World Series-winning manager Mike Scioscia leads the NL. Former Phillies shortstop, 2007 World Series champion and 2007 NL MVP Jimmy Rollins will lead the AL team.

Syracuse Mets infielder/outfielder Travis Blankenhorn has been named Minor League Baseball’s International League Player of the Month for June. The Pottsville High grad slashed .402/.486/.674. The 25-year-old led the league in total bases (62) and OPS (1,160). He was second in average (.402), hits (37), doubles (10), RBIs (24), on-base percentage (.486) and slugging percentage (.674), plus fifth in runs scored ( 22). He was the Twins’ third-round pick in 2015.

Syracuse comes to Coca-Cola Park for a six-game series August 2-7.

Reading catcher Vito Friscia is part of the Italy squad during Haarlem Baseball Week. Friscia will play for manager Mike Piazza in the Azzurri Elite national team.

Friscia has been put on the temporarily inactive roster to play at the Pim Mulier Stadium in Haarlem, the Netherlands, from July 8-15.

The 25-year-old, a 2019 40th-round pick over Hofstra, is hitting .236 with 27 carries, 51 walks and .399 on-base percentage for Reading.

The Italian team will play seven-set matches against 2018 champions Japan, USA, Netherlands, Cuba and Curacao. Japan and the United States field varsity all-star teams.

Morning Call reporter Tom Housenick can be reached at 610-820-6651 or [email protected]