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Romo pitches in 800th game: 'It means a lot'


MINNEAPOLIS — In a clubhouse of players and staff scrambling to get from one city to the next, Scott Servais jolted to one reliever’s locker amid the bustle and handed him the night’s scorecard, signed in congratulations.

The recipient was an emotional Sergio Romo who, in the Mariners’ 4-0 loss to the Twins on Monday, had just achieved a personal milestone only 52 others in baseball history have accomplished.

Romo had just pitched in his 800th career game, striking out two — including Carlos Correa — while giving up one hit in a scoreless sixth inning. He also punched out Miguel Sanó and forced speedster Byron Buxton into a forceout, essentially halting two of the Twins’ elite run producers and another slugger with top-end power.

“It means a lot that I can still compete at this level,” Romo said. “Here I am still chucking it, slinging it with the best, and it’s gratifying. I don’t really know how to pat myself on the back, but it definitely feels good.”

His arm padded with ice, tears slowly forming and his voice beginning to crack, the introspective 39-year-old was reflective about a stretch that began all the way back on June 26, 2008, with the Giants. Three weeks ago, Romo was in line to pitch for Acereros de Monclova in the Mexican League before the Mariners called, needing to fill a void left by a season-ending injury to pivot reliever Casey Sadler.

When he signed, Romo brought an ecstatic energy to a young clubhouse he was eager to lead. Yet at this stage in his career, he’s candidly thinking about individual milestones, too.

“That’s part of the reason why I wanted to play and give it a go,” Romo said. “At least for the grander part of my career, I’ve been unselfish and been more team-oriented. Being able to knock some of these out though, it means a lot, just getting an opportunity to do so. I walked up to Servais and I told him, ‘I haven’t said ‘thank you’ too many times,’ but I did tell him ‘thank you’ for this one.’”

Said Servais: “That’s unbelievable the career he’s had, and it’s a number that means a lot to him. He’s just got a way of getting through innings, understanding who he is and then how to attack hitters and another guy, very short Spring Training, came in late with us but it looks good. And I think he’s going to help us quite a bit.”

On a night where the Mariners mustered just two hits and went quietly, Romo was worth recognition. Jesse Winker hugged him and Marco Gonzales patted him on his back, and other players gave their congrats, too, despite bustling to get out of town for a matinee in Chicago on Wednesday.

Romo, who also pitched a 1-2-3 seventh inning in Saturday’s win, is the only pitcher in MLB history with at least 100 career saves and 200 holds. He is second among active leaders in appearances behind only Joe Smith, who coincidentally made his 834th outing in Monday’s game for the Twins, helping them collectively limit the Mariners to just two hits.

Romo, whose home was Target Field from 2019-20, won three World Series titles with the Giants. There’s not much left to prove, but he has the backing of his biggest supporter, his 10-year-old son, Rex, who encouraged Romo to keep his MLB dream alive.

“He’s the one who’s like, ‘No, Dad, you still strike hitters out. Keep going,’” Romo said. “I’m like, ‘OK, let’s try.’ He’s a big reason why I’m here also still.”

Not including the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, Romo has pitched in at least 55 games per season dating back to ‘17, the last time he was on the injured list. He’ll keep going as long as he has a gig.

“I’ve got to still be producing and show that I get hitters out to get to that number,” Romo said. “But here we are at 800. The next one is 801. Today, it’s pretty awesome.”

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