Thursday, May 31, 2018

PhoulBallz Interview: Reading SP JoJo Romero

JoJo Romero, image- Jay Floyd
Reading starter JoJo Romero has finally arrived.  Well, what I mean is; the JoJo Romero you may have read about during last off-season seems to be doing the sorts of things a highly regarded prospect is supposed to do after not doing those things in the early going this season.

After sporting a 7.18 ERA through his first five Double-A starts, the 21-year-old left-hander has tallied a 2.97 ERA in his most recent five starts.

This week I talked with Romero, the Phillies 4th round draft choice in 2016, about his turnaround, his team, attention that comes with being ranked highly as a prospect and plenty more.  Read ahead for that full interview.


-I just want to get your thoughts on your efforts so far in the Eastern League.
 
I’ve definitely learned a lot over these past couple months, or whatever.  So, you know, just adjusting to that and it’s a very hitter-friendly league, so as a pitcher you have to adjust to that as well.  I’m trying to make adjustments to what the hitters are trying to do in the hitter-friendly league and where the ball flies in the park too, so…constant adjustments.
 
-A lot of guys coming into this league will cite that there’s an adjustment period and a learning curve for some guys.  With that in mind, is there any particular thing that you’re trying to improve on?
 
Yeah, I mean it’s more just simplicity.  I think in the beginning, for most people in general, I think Double-A is a lot harder.  It’s a bigger jump.  Guys will try to do a lot more, but in reality it’s sticking to the basics.  Sticking to what got you there and I think that’s the one thing I’ve been doing these last couple starts, which is simplifying things and going out and having fun.
 
-The last time through here, a few weeks ago, your numbers weren’t gleaming and what you’re getting at there is that things have turned around for you over the last few starts.  Is there anything besides that simplistic approach that’s helping your improve, anything physical that’s changed?
 
Not so much physical wise, I’d say more of the day to day kind of focus in the sense of the bullpens or I’m working on certain things trying to keep a nice smooth effort and keeping the focus on what we’re doing in bullpens as well as flat grounds and small little things like that.  You know, keeping it simple.  And I think that’s what I’m able to do in my bullpens, which allows me to take it out to games and I think it’s starting to really show.
 
-With the success coming more recently, is having faced teams before this year part of what’s helping your confidence or ability to get outs?
 
I’m constantly learning.  But it’s not so much learning from playing a team already.  It’s about learning about what I can do with certain pitches and in certain counts and using it to my advantage, so when I play another team and I’ve seen them already, I know what their weakness is and I can attack it using certain pitches and using them different ways than I used them before.  I just gotta keep making those adjustments and picking up on those things. 

-Is there any feedback you've gotten from the coaches that's helping you along?

Simplicity.  That's why I've been saying it a lot, 'cause I felt personally I was doing a lot-- doing too much with other pitches earlier on in the year.  The one thing we've kind of referred back to is simplicity and command that fastball and, you know, it's basic.  So, just going back to that, keeping things simple and hopefully looking to keep this rhythm.

-There are a few guys on this team that come into the season with considerable reputations.  You're one of them, viewed as big prospect.  What does that mean to you to have that recognition?

Yeah, I mean it's nice, you get to see your hard work get noticed.  But at the end of the day, it's just a label.  You still have to go out there and perform and you constantly have to go out there and learn and make those adjustments and you have to put that to work.  It's all about results and how you go about it.

-It can't be a bad thing though, right?  You have more fans knowing your name and wanting your autograph.

It's definitely awesome.  I'm definitely signing a lot more autographs than I did in the years before, so it's definitely pretty cool.

-I've seen something from other media members when I've been around you before- I recall some guys asking you to help translate for one of your teammates.  You're not fluent in Spanish, but do you get that a lot, where people expect you to know Spanish?

Yeah, I think it happened a couple times when we first got to Reading and they asked me, "Can you translate?"  And I understand a little bit, but as far as translating, I'm not the first person you want to go to.

-Do you get that a lot, people expecting you to know...?

Yeah.  Definitely.

-Who do you room with on this team?

I room with our catcher Austin Bossart.  And on the road, it's Edgar Garcia.

-Edgar's a guy that's starting to make a name for himself.  He's been really hot lately out of the bullpen for this team.  What do you think of what he's been doing?

I mean, all his moments, he's taking advantage of it.  He's making himself known.

-How is it rooming with the backstop, Bossart?

It's awesome!  I mean, I got to pitch to him a little bit last year and since last year we've been on the same page, so it's awesome to get to room with him and get to know him better and that translates when we go out to the field too.

-You get to face this Trenton team for the second time within a few weeks.  Do you feel more confident going after a team after seeing them?

I mean I saw a few different names that weren't on the roster last time, so I definitely have to do a little more homework on that.  But, especially with the way I've felt the last couple starts, I'm starting to get in a little better rhythm and I think that adds a little more confidence especially seeing this team the second time around, you get more comfortable and get more confidence.

-Is there anybody in the Phils organization, player wise- not coaches, that you've learned a lot from?

Probably, Pedro Beato.  Every time he's around in spring training he's always talking to us, but there was one time last year in Clearwater, he was making a rehab- he made a couple appearances, and we were in the bullpen and we were talking about different pitch grips and things he does in certain counts.  Just trying to pick his brain about what his mentality is in different counts.  And that was pretty awesome.  That was probably the last time I got to talk to him a lot, so that was pretty cool.  

-I saw Jose Taveras out with the relievers tonight.  When there's starters hanging out in the bullpen, is that what they're going for?  Trying to be around other pitchers, to talk game?

Yeah, that's usually what happens out there especially when you have someone rehabbing.  You want to make your way out there, so you can get to talk to them and you can pick their brain.  But, that's ultimately why.

-A couple more things for you and thanks for all the time.  I really appreciate it.  You're out here tonight wearing an Eagles cap.  Are you that deep into Philly sports that you're supporting the Eagles too?

Aw, man!  I'm definitely starting to love the Philly sports.  Especially with the way they play, that kind of high energy.  That's something I love and that's the way I like to play, so I definitely got to support them.  I got a Sixers shirt, I've got a Flyers hat, so I'm ready!

-Perfect, man!  Were there any players you looked up to as a kid that perhaps you wanted to emulate?

Yeah, they weren't lefties though.  One of them that I watched a lot was Eric Gagne.  The whole thing was, "Game over".  That was kind of like a calling card.  So, you know, just watching pitchers like that, who were all intensity and that bulldog mentality when they were on the mound, those were the ones I liked watching.  

-I talked to him once, not in an interview setting, and the guy was so serious.  Nothing at all that gave me the opportunity to transition to any sort of fun chat with him.  Just all intensity.

Yeah.  Now imagine that on the mound with a 100 mile an hour fastball!
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