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Blue Jays' Romano continues to dazzle at Double-A

MLB.com @GoldenSombrero

TRENTON, N.J. -- With each start, Jordan Romano is shedding his projection as a future bullpen arm.

Romano, Toronto's No. 27 prospect, impressed Wednesday in his second start of the season for Double-A New Hampshire, allowing three hits in seven scoreless innings as the Fisher Cats shut out Trenton, 4-0, at Arm & Hammer Park.

TRENTON, N.J. -- With each start, Jordan Romano is shedding his projection as a future bullpen arm.

Romano, Toronto's No. 27 prospect, impressed Wednesday in his second start of the season for Double-A New Hampshire, allowing three hits in seven scoreless innings as the Fisher Cats shut out Trenton, 4-0, at Arm & Hammer Park.

Romano was sharp from the outset of the game, as he retired the first five batters before allowing a two-out single. He rebounded to retire the next eight batters, and then he put a bow on his performance by retiring eight of his last nine while pitching around a leadoff double in the seventh inning. Romano posted seven strikeouts against zero walks in the outing, throwing 58 of his 86 pitches for strikes.

Romano notches seventh K

"I felt pretty good from the start," Romano said after the game. "Me, [catcher Pat Cantwell] and Vince Horseman, our pitching coach, put a plan in place before the game. Pat would call the pitches and I'd try to execute, and the defense behind me played extremely well."

Born and raised in Ontario, Romano began his collegiate career with one season at Connors State JC (Okla.) before transferring to Oral Roberts in 2014 and recording 12 saves as the Golden Eagles' closer. He signed for $25,000 as the Blue Jays' 10th-round pick that June and continued to excel in a bullpen role during his professional debut, only to miss all of 2015 while recovering from Tommy John surgery.

That recovery period allowed the Blue Jays to reevaluate Romano's profile, as they had pegged him as a potential starter out of the Draft on account of his durable frame and promising arsenal. The 6-foot-4, 200-pounder returned to the mound in June 2016 as a member of Class A Lansing's starting rotation and impressed in the new role, posting a 2.11 ERA with 72 strikeouts and a .191 opponents' average in 72 2/3 innings (14 starts/15 games).

Romano showed good command of his four-pitch mix in the outing. He pitched to both sides of the plate with a fastball that averaged 91-92 mph with some natural cut and was as high as 94 mph. That feel for his heater, on a cold night nonetheless, aided the effectiveness of his secondary offerings, as Romano comfortably mixed a sharp, mid-80s slider with an improved low-80s changeup and a fringy curveball that featured top-to-bottom action at 79-80 mph.

Tweet from @GoldenSombrero: #BlueJays Jordan Romano picks up his fifth strikeout on his best fastball of the night (94 mph). @FisherCats pic.twitter.com/kH7AdsseVa

Romano's potential as a reliever stems from a fastball-slider pairing that has long made him tough on right-handed hitters. He held them to a .192 average in 2017, spending the entire season with Class A Advanced Dunedin in the Florida State League. Left-handed hitters, on the other hand, batted .351 last season against Romano, in turn highlighting his need for better fastball command as well as a more effective changeup.

Romano checked both of those boxes in Wednesday's contest, as the 24-year-old right-hander allowed just a pair of singles to left-handed hitters.

"The changeup today was especially big for me," said Romano, who pitched to 3.39 ERA with 138 strikeouts and 54 walks in 138 innings (28 games/26 starts) last season. "I showed it early so they couldn't sit on my fastball or slider, and mixed in my curveball early in counts. I felt like I mixed my pitches well and threw a lot of strikes."

Pacing the Fisher Cats' offens was none other than MLB Pipeline No. 3 overall prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Blue Jays' No. 1). The 19-year-old third baseman continued his torrid start to the season with another multi-hit performance.

After grounding out in his first at-bat, Guerrero recorded New Hampshire's first extra-base hit of the game in the top of the third inning when he lined a one-out double into the right-center field gap on an outer-half 2-0 fastball from Trenton starter Domingo Acevedo (Yankees' No. 9).

Tweet from @GoldenSombrero: Surprise surprise ... #BlueJays Vladdy with a rocket double to RCF on a 2-0, outer-half fastball from #Yankees Acevedo. Gorgeous swing, per usual. @FisherCats pic.twitter.com/bvFjSoMjqo

Guerrero would later tack on a run-scoring single back up the middle as part of a two-run seventh inning to finish the game 2-for-5 at the plate. The two-hit showing lifted the teenager's average and OPS to .321 and 1.061, respectively, and he's now hit safely in six of seven contests for the Fisher Cats so far this season.

Not to be forgotten was Bo Bichette, as the No. 13 overall prospect (Blue Jays' No. 2) showed a pull-heavy approach for much of the game with two weakly-hit balls and a pair of strikeouts in his first four at-bats. The 20-year-old shortstop -- who logged his first start of the year at second base in the contest -- made an adjustment in his final at-bat as he stayed inside a 1-1 fastball to line it to right field for a single.

Tweet from @GoldenSombrero: After pulling off pitches in his early at-bats, #BlueJays Bo Bichette finally stays inside the ball and lines a single to RF. He���s 1-for-5 tonight for @FisherCats. pic.twitter.com/BQIlgoQnxo

The ninth-inning knock extended Bichette's hitting streak to six games. He had tallied multiple hits in his five previous contests after going 0-for-4 on Opening Day. Overall, Bichette is hitting .364 through seven games this season after finishing 1-for-5 on Wednesday.

"Their talent is one thing," said Romano about the two Fisher Cats phenoms, "but another thing that really stands out is what great teammates they are. They're young guys but leaders in the clubhouse and it's really great having them play behind me."

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.

Toronto Blue Jays