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Rare Jays win provides a night to remember for rookie Romano in his career debut


BALTIMORE – When Jordan Romano wandered the lobby of the Blue Jays’ five-star team hotel here on Wednesday morning, it turned into the latest reunion of the 2018 New Hampshire Fisher Cats.

The reigning Eastern League champions are up and down manager Charlie Montoyo’s lineup now, with Romano the latest to hop aboard the big-league train prior to a desperately needed 8-6 Jays win over the Orioles at Camden Yards.

The receiving line would be a lengthy one for Romano, who has found new life as a reliever and was arguably the best pitcher for the triple-A Buffalo Bisons over the past few weeks. Hence the promotion.

At the front was Vlad Guerrero Jr., the jewel of those mighty Fisher Cats for much of last season, but also in the clubhouse were fellow familiar faces –  leadoff hitter Cavan Biggio, left fielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr., catcher Danny Jansen and Major League coach John Schneider.

“They were pumped that I got the call,” said Romano, the 26-year-old Markham-born and Jays drafted and raised pitcher. “I saw Vladdy in the lobby and he couldn’t believe it. We gave each other a big hug. They were all excited to see me.”

Not nearly as excited as Romano was to be in a big-league hotel, followed by a big-league clubhouse and finally a big-league mound. If the smile left his face at all during the day, it wasn’t for long, just putting on the Jays uniform and cap thrilling him beyond words.

But after a burst of offence for the struggling team, Romano took the mound in the seventh inning with a six-run lead and unleashed a quick bit of work he won’t soon forget.

The 6-foot-4, 200-pound right-hander struck out the first two O’s hitters he faced – Pedro Severino and Rio Ruiz – on his way to a 1-2-3 debut inning. With a fastball clocking 99.1 miles per hour, a nasty slider baffling the three batters he faced and his father Joe and mother Cynthia in the stands, it was a magical night for the kid who played for six different farm teams in the Toronto system.

When Romano returned to the visitor’s dugout, many of those players who he teamed with in New Hampshire were there to offer congratulations, each of them relating to what went down for their pal.

“It was everything I dreamed it would be,” Romero said. “Coming out of those bullpen gates. The lights. It was awesome it was special with my parents in the crowd.”

It’s been quite a 12-month run for Romano, who has gone from reliever to starter and back to reliever. He was also claimed by the Chicago White Sox in the Rule 5 draft in December, traded to Texas, cut by the Rangers at the end of spring training then re-signed by the Jays.

On Wednesday, he becomes the first Canadian-born and Jays drafted player to pitch for the team since Scott Richmond in 2008. And he got the call because of a recent hot streak in triple A in which he didn’t allow a run in his previous eight appearances (just five hits surrendered in 10.1 innings of work.)

“I got moved back to the bullpen and I tightened up my slider a little bit and started throwing a little harder. And then I got into a little bit of a groove,” Romano said. “I put together a few good ones and now I’m here.”

“It’s been kind of a roller-coaster, but I’m glad I’m here.”

That roller coaster ride was actually a long one as Romano spent the better part of six years in the minors including time where it wasn’t certain where he fits in the Jays plans. But the 10th round pick in the 2014 draft persevered, re-invented himself and finally got his shot.

“The whole triple A staff said he deserved to come up,” manager Charlie Montoyo said. “He was pitching really good and he was closing for them down there. he was pitching the best.”

And for one inning of one night in the big leagues, he showed it.

OPEN IT UP

The Jays created a minor stir some four hours before first pitch when it was announced that Edwin Jackson would not be making his sixth start. Montoyo wasn’t benching the well-travelled veteran, however, just giving him a break by going with an “opener” format.

And it ended up working out rather well, given that Jackson had a 12.60 ERA in the first inning of appearances.

The “start” went to Derek Law, who never had that assignment as a professional (217 minor-league games, 14 as a Jay.) He got the job done, however, with a scoreless first and then Jackson took over and delivered the best outing of his six appearances with his 14th MLB team.

Jackson went five competed allowing four hits and two earned runs and was credited with the win as the Jays snapped a five-game losing streak and won on the road for the first time in eight tries.

GAME ON

Led by a Rowdy Tellez grand slam the Jays offence finally broke out with six-runs in the fifth inning and then added two more in the sixth to cruise to a desperately needed win.

It was Tellez’s 10th home run of the season and his second grand slam making him the first Jays to have a pair in his rookie season.

– The six-run inning matched the largest output of the season and the eight runs over two innings matched their total over their previous 49 frames.

“Hitting is contagious. You could feel it in the dugout,” Montoya said after the game.

– Solid night at the plate for Vlad Guerrero Jr., who had three hits, including an RBI double. It was the fourth three-hit game of Guerrero’s career.

AROUND THE BASES

There was room for Romano on the roster thanks to closer Ken Giles moving to the injured list with elbow inflammation.

Giles, who is arguably pitching the best in his career and could be a valuable trade deadline chip for the Jays, said the issue is minor and doesn’t anticipate a long absence.

“The recovery process (after his last outing) was a little slower and we’re just trying to be smart,” Giles said. “Getting some rest and some treatment is the best thing for me and the best thing for the team.”

In Giles’ absence, Montoyo said that Joe Biagini will inherit the closer’s role.

– There may soon be another of those Fisher Cats in the Jays fold if Bo Bichette’s play continues to sizzle. After a four-hit effort in Dunedin on Tuesday where he was recovering from a fractured bone in his hand, Bichette was recalled by the Bisons on Wednesday.

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019


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