Romano settling into role, hits 100+ mph

May 1st, 2021

April was a long month for Blue Jays right-hander . He looked dominant at times and appeared to still be searching for his best stuff at others, while a brief IL stint for a right elbow issue broke up the rhythm in between.

Entering the season, Romano was expected to be part of the shared closer’s role, but that’s evolved to include Julian Merryweather, who’s now injured, and Rafael Dolis. However you define Romano’s role, though, he’s talented enough to be pitching in the biggest moments in games when he’s healthy. His last two outings have been scoreless innings in lower leverage, which is all part of the easing-in process.

“Every time you’re coming back from a little time off, it’s always nice to get up to speed,” Romano said. “Pitching in these types of situations kind of let me get my timing back up without having to worry about having the game on the line every single pitch.”

He’s certainly got his best stuff working. In Friday’s win over Atlanta, Romano uncorked a 100.1 mph fastball, the hardest pitch of his career and first time he’s hit triple digits in a game.

“It’s something that I’ve always kind of wanted to throw,” Romano said, “100 is kind of cool, so I was pretty happy with it.”

It seems like Romano has finally settled in again, and he’ll be leaned on heavily. Not only are the Blue Jays working through multiple injuries to their starting rotation and bullpen, but given their competitive expectations in 2021, it’s reasonable to expect plenty of close games through the summer and down the stretch. In a tight playoff race, those big innings will matter.

In Romano’s first outing back, on April 24 against the Rays, he walked two batters and recorded just a single out, not looking like himself on the mound. It’s nothing mechanical, but instead a mental adjustment that he’s made to get back to himself over his last two appearances.

“This last outing, the velocity was where I wanted it to be,” Romano said, “and I got to the point where -- I know it wasn’t exactly high leverage -- I slowed myself down a little bit. I stayed under control. I felt like, in my first outing back in Tampa, I was speeding up. Last night, I just felt under control, felt like myself and I’m going to use that as a template going forward.”

Springer’s DH reps continue
George Springer started at designated hitter for the third consecutive game on Saturday against Atlanta, and there’s no rush to get him back into the field until he’s 100 percent ready. Coming back from a quad strain, this is both a matter of health and defensive readiness as Springer builds back up from his absence.

“It’s constant communication with me, him and [first-base coach] Mark Budzinski to see how he feels,” said manager Charlie Montoyo. “When he feels good to play in the outfield, he’ll play in the outfield. It’s constant communication every day before and after the games to see how he feels.”

Kirk goes back to back
Alejandro Kirk was back in the lineup Saturday after his two-homer performance on Friday, which begs the question of how this catching breakdown will shake out long-term between Kirk and Danny Jansen. This is no longer a rebuilding team, so in situations like Jansen’s very slow start at the plate, the Blue Jays won’t have the same level of patience they might have had in 2019.

“I don’t know if I call it a sense of urgency. We just want to have the best team that we can out there,” Montoyo said. “It’s all about trying to have the best team that we can to compete every day.”

Montoyo and the Blue Jays love Jansen’s abilities behind the plate working with the staff, and he’s a clubhouse favorite, but as long as Kirk keeps producing, the calls for him to see more action will only grow louder and louder.