Jordan Romano Chasing All-Time Canadian Save Record

Blue Jays reliever Jordan Romano is currently on track to move into third on the Canadian-born saves list by the end of the 2024 campaign.

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 16: Jordan Romano #68 of the Toronto Blue Jays delivers a pitch in a game against the New York Yankees at Rogers Centre on April 16, 2024 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

Per Baseball Reference, over 137 Canadian-born baseball players have stepped foot on a professional baseball mound, dating back to 1878 with Edward “The Only” Nolan making his debut with the Indianapolis Blues in the National League. At the big league level, there are currently six Canucks pitching on an active roster – Cal Quantrill, Michael Soroka, Nick Pivetta, James Paxton, Cade Smith, and Jordan Romano – with Romano being the lone Canadian to suit up for the Toronto Blue Jays.

Entering this season, Romano had 97 saves under his belt since debuting for the Jays back in 2019. While he didn’t become the club’s bonafide closer until 2021, the right-handed Markham, Ontario product has been one of the top bullpen arms across the league since the 2020 season. Over the past four campaigns, the 31-year-old ranks fifth in saves (101), eighth in ERA (2.39), 13th in fWAR (4.3), and 19th in strikeouts (256) as he anchors the back end of the Jays bullpen with his fastball and slider combo.

Romano started the 2024 season on the IL with elbow inflammation but the 2023 Tip O’Neill Award winner has appeared in six games since mid-April, allowing just four hits and two earned runs through 5 2/3 innings. Through the limited sample size, Romano owns a 3.18 ERA with five punchouts while collecting four saves for the Blue Jays. The 6-foot-5 Canadian works with a fastball that sits in the high 90s and a slider that has generated a 33.3 whiff percentage while holding opposing batters to a .167 batting average.

On April 22, Romano eclipsed the 100 save mark, doing so on the road against Kansas City where he locked down a Jays win by 5-3 score, allowing a home run in the outing. While the run may have dampened the occasion, his third save of the season saw Romano enter elite Canuck history, joining John Hiller (125), John Axford (144), and Éric Gagné (187) as the lone four to have eclipsed boast triple digit saves. Romano sits fourth on the list, passing Ryan Dempster (87) last season.

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To pass Hiller this year, Romano will require 24 more saves as the Jays look to continue a postseason streak that dates back to the 2022 season. His career-high total is 36, set both last year and in 2022, so the single-season mark of the required 28 is achievable even with the right-hander missing some time on the IL to begin the season. He will likely not be contending with Axford’s total until next year while Gagné’s 187 mark is likely in contention within two to three years if Romano continues on his current trend.

Axford compiled his 144 saves spread across 11 seasons, most notably with the Milwaukee Brewers where he led the National League in the category with 46 saves in 2011. He would earn the Rolaid’s Relief Man Award for his efforts that season, finishing with a 1.95 ERA through 73 2/3 innings in his standout campaign.

The pitcher to catch is Gagné, who amassed 187 saves across 10 seasons, eight of which were spent on the West Coast with the Los Angeles Dodgers. A starter early in his career, Gagné made the transition to the bullpen in 2002 and quickly emerged as a top arm in the relief corps for the Dodgers

From 2002 to 2004, Gagné posted a 1.79 ERA through 247 innings while collecting 152 saves with 365 strikeouts, earning the NL Cy Young Award in 2003 (with an NL-leading 55 saves) to go along with three consecutive all-star appearances and two Rolaid Relief Man Awards. He is the last reliever to have won the prestigious pitching honour.

With the league boasting Canadian pitchers across multiple squads, including Mariners reliever Matt Brash who is currently on the IL, Jordan Romano is leading the charge in the bullpen as he continues to climb up the saves leaderboard.

Romano recently moved into fourth spot in Blue Jays franchise history with his 101st save this past weekend, passing Billy Koch. He is also four saves away from passing Roberto Osuna for third place and 22 away from passing Duane Ward for second, with the Ontario Blue Jays and Junior National Team alum chasing history on multiple fronts each time he steps on the mound.

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