CEDAR RAPIDS — Dream up the best possible scenario for your first official game back after Tommy John elbow surgery, and Fernando Romero exceded it Friday night. Blew it away.
The Cedar Rapids Kernels pitcher was simply electric in beating Quad Cities, 9-0, at Veterans Memorial Stadium. He had to be to overshadow teammate Daniel Kihle, who hit a pair of homers and drove in six runs.
Romero threw five hitless innings, using a fastball that topped out at 98.9 miles per hour according to the TrackMan data system in the pressbox and 100 MPH according to one of the radar guns behind home plate. The right-hander last pitched in a game June 22, 2014, going three innings for the Kernels before leaving with elbow pain.
He underwent ligament replacement surgery later that summer. Sometimes you don’t come back with the same stuff you had pre-surgery, sometimes you do.
Sometimes you come back with more stuff.
“First of all, I’m feeling great,” the 21-year-old from the Dominican Republic said. “Happy to come back strong after my Tommy John surgery. One-hundred percent healthy, that’s what I’m feeling right now.”
Romero was considered one of the top 20 prospects of the parent Minnesota Twins when he was injured and conferred with Twins outfielder Miguel Sano, who also had TJ, before deciding to get operated on. After rehabbing all of last season, he returned to the mound in instructional league last fall.
The Twins did not want to send him to Cedar Rapids to begin this season because of the cold weather, so he remained in Florida at extended spring training until this week. Romero struck out the first two Quad Cities hitters Friday night and ended with four Ks overall.
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The only baserunner against him came in the fifth on a throwing error on shorstop Jermaine Palacios, but he was erased on a double play. Romero ended with 63 pitches, a number that will increase as he goes along.
“His stuff was firm,” Kernels Manager Jake Mauer said. “Slider was good. Just dominating stuff. Fastball at (100), slider at 90. That’s awfully firm.”
“(Sano) told me it was going to be hard,” Romero said. “He said to go get the surgery. You will be fine. Just work hard. I just did it.”
Anthony McIver (three innings) and Michael Cederoth (one) finished off the two-hitter. The Kernels (23-17) pounded out 15 hits, knocking QC starting pitcher Albert Abreu out of the game in the first inning.
Kihle has come back strong in the nine games he has played since going on the disabled list after incurring a MCL sprain in his right knee in the second inning of his first game with the Kernels back on April 28. He hit a two-run homer in the second inning and added a three-run blast in the eighth.
“It took a couple of days to get my timing back,” he said. “After that, it was just trying to wait for the pitches I like to hit. Just trying to make the best of it.”
The teams play again Saturday night at 6:35.
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