2016 Canadian draft list
Letters of Intent
By Alexis Brudnicki
Canadian Baseball Network
DUNEDIN, Fla. – Sometimes you just know.
When Jordan Romano tore his ulnar collateral ligament pitching in a spring training game against a team of Philadelphia Phillies minor leaguers on Friday, he knew. Though it wasn’t official until Tuesday, he threw one fastball – the second-last pitch of a clean five-out appearance – and it marked the moment when the right-handed hurler felt the tear.
Now the Toronto Blue Jays farmhand is headed for the operation room. With Tommy John surgery to replace the ligament tentatively set for next Wednesday – though he is aiming to have it performed by Dr. James Andrews and the timetable could change – Romano knows there’s nothing he could have done differently and he’s ready to get on the road to recovery.
“I couldn’t really do anything to prevent it … I came into the inning with one out, got the next two guys and then came back the next inning,” the 21-year-old said. “It was three up, three down, but on the second-last pitch to the last batter I threw a fastball and I felt it go. I knew it was the UCL.
“I didn’t feel a pop or anything but it was like the inside of my elbow turned almost; that’s what I would describe it like. I was almost in shock. I actually threw the next pitch, a slider, and before I threw it I knew it was going to be the last pitch I threw for a while, so I wanted to make it a good one.
“That slider was the best pitch I’ve thrown here, that’s for sure.”
Romano’s first season in the organization was an incredibly successful one, posting a 1.93 ERA over 13 games and 28 innings with 34 strikeouts between the rookie-class Gulf Coast League Blue Jays and the class-A Bluefield Blue Jays. After being selected in the 10th round of the draft out of Oral Roberts University, the transition from college to professional baseball was a smooth one.
“In pro ball you just play more games,” he said. “But the competition was relatively the same, and I found it to be an easy transition to pitch from college to pro ball … Last season went well. I pitched pretty consistently all year.
“It was a lot of sticking with the routine, trying to do the same thing every day and trying to keep myself ready. It gets real easy to fall into a negative attitude because you’re playing every day and some days you’re tired, but you’ve got to take it as knowing you’re pretty blessed to be able to play pro baseball every day.”
Heading into this spring training ready to get back to the grind of everyday baseball, Romano anxiously awaited what this season had in store for him. Tommy John wasn’t exactly what he had in mind.
“I was in the best shape of my life,” the 6-foot-4, 200-pound righty said. “I was actually throwing great, better than last year. I was throwing strikes and everything was going well. It was going exactly how I wanted to, and then it was just that one pitch and there it went.”
The young pitcher and former Canadian Junior National Team member went the extra mile this off-season, working out at the Ontario Blue Jays facility in Mississauga, Ont., and putting in more time than ever before to ensure that he would be able to endure the length of a full year after getting an idea of what might be to come.
“It definitely made me realize the work that had to go into it,” Romano said. “If you’re on a full-season team you’re going to be playing  games, so you have to take the off-season and prepare for that. It’s not like a college season where you’re only playing 56. It’s almost triple that, so you’ve got to do a lot more work to stay in shape throughout those games…
“The toughest thing is playing every single day. In college you get three or four days off and then pro ball is every single day, running every day, throwing every day. It takes a toll on you…but the best part is that you’re playing baseball every day. You’re out in the good weather, you’re with your buddies, and it’s great.”
Though he is already taking a break from getting out on the diamond every day, Romano will remain in the warm weather in the sunshine state for the next several months, completing his rehabilitation at Toronto’s Bobby Mattick Training Center in Dunedin, Fla., likely into the fall.
With his ligament 100% torn, and with nothing to do but wait for surgery, the native of Markham, Ont., has already taken some time to talk to some friends and teammates about the rehabilitation process that awaits him. Ladner, BC native and fellow Toronto farmhand Tom Robson had the procedure on July 15 last year, and the fact that he is already throwing off a mound is encouraging for Romano.
“I talked to Tom quite a bit,” he said. “Tom has been pretty [helpful] especially for the fact that he just went through it. He’s telling me what to expect and stuff like that. He’s feeling pretty good right now, so that’s good. He got it done by Dr. Andrews so hopefully I can get it done by [him too] … and then hopefully I’ll be back by next spring.”
Ready to get the surgery done and start working his way back, Romano feels prepared for what lay ahead.
“I’m not nervous for it, because from what I hear it’s pretty straightforward,” he said. “I know the rehab is going to be the worst. I’ll be here at least until the end of August.”
TJ NORTH OF THE BORDER: Romano joins Stanford Cardinal ace Cal Quantrill on the disabled list for the better part of at least the next year, with the college hurler undergoing Tommy John surgery on Friday, performed by Dr. David Altchuk … Robson has completed much of his rehab in Dunedin alongside Blue Jays top draft pick Jeff Hoffman, who had the procedure just before the selection process last year … Philadelphia Phillies right-hander Steven Inch underwent Tommy John on July 30 last year and is currently throwing from 120 feet on flat ground.