clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Blue Jays place All-Star closer Jordan Romano on the IL with back inflammation

The hard-throwing righty first suffered the injury while warming up for his appearance in the All-Star Game and had been trying to manage it ever since.

Jordan Romano of Toronto Blue Jays pitches against the San Diego Padres during the ninth inning in their MLB game at the Rogers Centre on July 20, 2023 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images

Just days before the 2023 trade deadline, an American League contender finds itself suddenly in need of a new closer. The Toronto Blue Jays placed All-Star reliever Jordan Romano on the injured list on Saturday afternoon with inflammation in his lower back:

Reliever and former top prospect Nate Pearson has been recalled from Triple-A in a corresponding move.

Romano first suffered the injury in somewhat controversial fashion. The AL’s saves leader was warming up to enter the All-Star Game when he began to feel tightness in his lower back. Despite reporting the discomfort to the coaching staff, AL manager Dusty Baker decided to let Romano pitch anyway — only for him to be removed by a trainer after just five pitches.

Baker understandably came in for some criticism in the days after, particularly north of the border. With the benefit of a couple extra days off for the All-Star break, Romano and the Jays hoped the pain would subside with rest and allow him to avoid a stint on the IL. The righty didn’t pitch for over a week, sitting out Toronto’s first few games of the second half until finally pitching the ninth inning of a win over the Padres on July 20.

He’s made four more appearances since, notching two more saves, but it’s been clear that Romano wasn’t at 100 percent: he took a loss last weekend against the Mariners and has walked an uncharacteristic four batters over his last 3.1 innings of work. With the Jays intent on making a deep October run, the team decided it was best to give Romano time to heal now rather than risk not having him in the fall.

There’s not yet a timetable for Romano’s return to action, but any absence is a big blow to a Toronto bullpen that enters Saturday ranked eighth in the Majors in ERA. Their closer has been at the tip of that spear, with a 2.79 ERA, an AL-leading 28 saves and 51 strikeouts across 42 innings. Righty Erik Swanson is likely to assume ninth-inning duties for now — he notched a save two weeks ago when Romano was first forced to miss time — but while he’s been solid enough this season, he also just coughed up four runs in a loss to the Dodgers earlier this week. Tim Mayza, Yimi Garcia and Trevor Richards will also figure into the late-inning mix.

The other big question is how the timing of this injury will affect Toronto’s strategy as the trade deadline nears. The Jays had already been among the teams reportedly looking for bullpen help, namely St. Louis Cardinals closer Jordan Hicks, and it now seems very likely that Toronto swings a deal for a reliever over the next few days. In addition to Hicks, names like Chicago White Sox righty Keynan Middleton and Kansas City Royals closer Scott Barlow figure to be the subject of trade rumors.