Jordan Romano

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Jordan Robert Romano

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Biographical Information[edit]

Canadian-born Jordan Romano pitched for the Italian national team before making his major league debut.

Romano struck out 14 in 9 1/3 IP in junior college as a freshman at Connors State College and 53 in 38 innings as a sophomore (4-3, 4.74) when his team made the 2013 NJCAA Division I Baseball World Series. [1] He transferred to Oral Roberts University and was 3-4 with 12 saves and a 2.66 ERA in 2014. He led the Southland Conference in saves. [2] The Toronto Blue Jays took him in the 10th round of the 2014 amateur draft.

He spent the rest of 2014 with the GCL Blue Jays (0 R in 3 IP) and Bluefield Blue Jays (1-1, 2.16 in 11 G, 33 K, 9 BB in 25 IP). He had Tommy John surgery and missed all of 2015. [3] Returning to action in 2016, he was 3-2 with a 2.11 ERA and .191 opponent average. [4] He pitched five no-hit innings, walking two and fanning five, against the Peoria Chiefs, and Josh DeGraaf finished off the no-hitter but Romano took the loss as a batter he walked (Craig Aikin) advanced on an error and scored on a sacrifice fly after DeGraaf came, Lansing falling 1-0. It was just the second no-hitter in franchise history. [5]

Romano then pitched for the Italian national team in the 2017 World Baseball Classic as his father is Italian. [6] He got Italy's lone win of the Classic. Relieving Tommy Layne in the 9th with a 9-5 deficit against host Mexico, he struck out Japhet Amador on three pitches and Chris Roberson on four, then Luis Cruz flew out. When Italy stunned Roberto Osuna and Oliver Pérez with five runs in the bottom of the inning, Romano got the win. His second outing was less sharp. Relieving Luis Lugo in the bottom of the 4th with a 4-3 deficit, one on and one out, he allowed Puerto Rico to build their lead. He hit Kennys Vargas and walked Roberto Pérez but struck out both Mike Aviles and Kiké Hernandez. In the 4th, he walked Ángel Pagán, allowed a single to Francisco Lindor and a three-run homer by Carlos Correa to make it 7-3. Filippo Crepaldi took over at that point. Romano finished with a 16.20 ERA on the event; only Mike DeMark was higher on the staff, but Romano did have their only win and his four whiffs tied Layne and Pat Venditte for second on the 14-man staff (one behind A.J. Morris). [7]

In 2017, he was with the Class A Dunedin Blue Jays, where he went 7-5, 3.39 in 28 games as a starter. He followed that with an even more solid season in 2018, split between the AA New Hampshire Fisher Cats and the AAA Buffalo Bisons. Altogether, he was 12-8, 4.11 in 26 starts, logging 142 1/3 innings and striking out 128 batters. However, the Blue Jays did not add him to their 40-man roster after the season, and he was then drafted by the Chicago White Sox with the 3rd pick of the 2018 Rule V Draft on December 13th. The Sox were doing this on behalf of the Texas Rangers, as they immediately sent Romano their way in a trade. However, he failed to make the team in spring training and was returned to the Blue Jays on March 23, 2019. He was back with Buffalo at the start of the season and was 1-2, 6.10 after 17 games, including 3 starts. This would not normally have justified a promotion, but the Jays were desperate just to have some healthy arms on the major league team, leading to his being called up when Ken Giles went on the injured list on June 12th. He made his debut that same day, pitching a scoreless inning in relief and recording a pair of strikeouts in an 8-6 win over the Baltimore Orioles. Relieving Edwin Jackson in the 7th with a 8-2 lead, he got Pedro Severino looking and Rio Ruiz swinging then Hanser Alberto grounded out. Fellow rookie Elvis Luciano relieved Romano. He went 0-2, 7.63 in 17 games, logging 15 1/3 innings. But he began to focus on relief work in the minors, and as a result gained some velocity that suddenly made him a much more interesting prospect by the time the season ended.

He earned his first major league win in the first game of the 2020 season, on July 24th, against the Tampa Bay Rays. He took over for starter Hyun-Jin Ryu with two outs in the 5th and the Blue Jays in the lead, and did not allow any runs in an inning and a third. He pitched very well in the season's early going 2-1, 1.23 with 2 saves in 15 games, with 21 strikeouts in just 14 2/3 innings. However, a sprained finger then ended his season, and he missed the final month and the postseason. In 2021, he was once again counted upon as a bullpen mainstay, especially after putative closer Kirby Yates went down for the count with an elbow injury in spring training. He repeated his feat of winning on opening day, pitching a scoreless 9th inning against the New York Yankees on April 1st with the score tied at 2, before the Jays scored once in the top of the 10th and Julian Merryweather recorded his first career save to seal the deal. His one inning was a bit stressful though, as he gave up a lead-off single to Gary Sanchez, then saw pinch-runner Mike Tauchman steal both second and third base before being thrown out at home on an excellent game-saving play by 3B Cavan Biggio. He turned out to be the Jays' most reliable reliever that season as he claimed the closer's job and never looked back, going 7-1, 2.14 in 62 games with 23 saves. He struck out 85 opponents in 63 innings and would have picked up more saves, were it not for the Jays' habits of winning games by huge margins which made him ineligible for a save (he had 43 games finished, whereas most closers have much closer totals of saves and games finished).

In spring training of 2022, he disappointed hometown Canadian fans by announcing that he would once again compete with Italy in the 2023 World Baseball Classic. He explained that his father was born in the country and that he still had lots of family there, and that he was grateful for the opportunity Italy had given him when he was a nobody back in 2017, that he had greatly enjoyed the tournament and wanted to repeat the experience. Shortly before tournament rosters were finalized, though, he opted out of the event. He recorded a save in the first three Blue Jays wins of the season. His third against the Yankees on April 11th was his 26th consecutive successful save conversion dating back to the previous season, breaking the team record set by Tom Henke in 1991. After getting a save in eight of the Jays' first ten wins that season, he faltered for the first time on April 24th when he allowed a two-run, walk-off homer to Jeremy Peña of the Houston Astros in the 10th inning to turn a 7-6 lead into an 8-7 loss. On May 10th, he allowed the first walk-off blast of Aaron Judge's career, in a 6-5 loss at New Yankee Stadium: he came in the bottom of the 9th to protect a 5-3 lead, but after striking out Isiah Kiner-Falefa, he gave up back-to-back walks to Jose Trevino and D.J. LeMahieu before Judge took him very deep to left field to end the game. It was his second loss and blown save of the year. He finished the season at 5-4, 2.11 in 63 games, with 36 saves and 73 strikeouts in 63 innings. However, his lone postseason appearance, in Game 2 of the Wild Card Series against the Seattle Mariners on October 8th, resulted in a loss. he was forced to come into the game earlier than usual, with none out in the 8th, after Anthony Bass had given up three straight hits to open the inning. The Blue Jays were hanging on to a 9-6 lead, but Romero allowed a single to Adam Frazier to load the bases, then after a couple of strikeouts, allowed a short pop fly to J.P. Crawford that dropped to the ground when SS Bo Bichette and CF George Springer crashed into each other. That cleared the bases and tied the score, and in the 9th, he gave up a one-out double to Cal Raleigh and another key two-out hit, another double to Frazier, that proved to be game-winning hit. Following the season, he was named the winner of the Tip O'Neill Award given out by the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame to the best Canadian player that season.

He declined an opportunity to pitch for Italy (or Canada) in the 2023 World Baseball Classic, but had another great first half for the Blue Jays, racking up an American League-leading 26 saves before the All-Star break. He was not originally named to the league's roster for the 2023 All-Star Game but was added as a replacement. He came in to pitch the 7th inning with the AL holding a 2-1 lead, but after recording a first out, allowed a long fly ball down the left field line to former teammate Lourdes Gurriel, now with the Arizona Diamondbacks. It was originally called a game-tying homer, but after a video review, was downgraded to a simple foul ball. However, Romano fell a twinge in his back on that pitch and left the game, being replaced by Michael Lorenzen who completed the inning. He had thrown just five pitches and in a regular season game would likely have continued to pitch, but in an exhibition game, prudence was the name of the game.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 2-time AL All-Star (2022 & 2023)
  • 30 Saves Seasons: 2 (2022 & 2023)


Further Reading[edit]

  • The Canadian Press: "Jays reliever Jordan Romano wins Tip O'Neill Award as top Canadian player for 2022", Yahoo! News, December 6, 2022. [1]
  • Jordan Williams: "Blue Jays pitcher Jordan Romano chooses to pitch for Italy instead of Canada at WBC", Yahoo! Sports, March 27, 2022. [2]

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