Nine for Romine: Tiger plays every position
Superutility player fifth to achieve feat, appreciates ovation by Target Field crowd
MINNEAPOLIS -- Andrew Romine has spent four seasons working in relative obscurity as a superutility player on a star-studded Tigers roster. On Saturday, manager Brad Ausmus gave him his day in the spotlight, and pretty much everywhere else on the field.
In the Tigers' 3-2 win over the Twins, Romine became the fifth player in Major League history to play all nine positions in a game, and the first since former Tiger Shane Halter did it on the final day of the 2000 season against the Twins at Comerica Park.
• Follow along with Romine as he plays all nine positions
"It made things light. It made things fun," Romine said. "We had something to look forward to. If it didn't happen in Detroit, I'm glad it happened here, because these fans, they respect sports, they respect other teams. It was fun to see the way that they acknowledged it. And when they said something, I got to acknowledge the fans, acknowledge the other dugout, to say thank you for letting me do that. I couldn't think of another place that would've been better than this, other than Detroit."
Others to play all nine positions include Bert Campaneris (Sept. 8, 1965), Cesar Tovar (Sept. 22, 1968) and Scott Sheldon (Sept. 6, 2000). No Major Leaguer had played all nine positions in a game since Halter, though Buster Posey did it in college at Florida State in 2008.
Ausmus was the Tigers catcher the day Halter played all nine, and ended up playing at third, second and first base along the way. He first talked with Romine about the idea two years ago, then revisited it this summer as the Tigers' postseason hopes faded.
"I think it meant a lot to him," Ausmus said. "He's not a guy that wants or gets a lot of attention. He's unique in the sense that he can play pretty much anywhere, and you feel comfortable with him there, except that you don't want him to pitch or catch. It gives him kind of a day in the sun, so to speak."
Ausmus originally planned to play Romine at all nine spots Sunday, but moved it up a day when the weather forecast showed an increasing chance of rain Sunday in Minneapolis. He had sketched out a plan on how to move Romine along, position by position, as the game went along, plus all the moves other players would have to make to make room.
"I think it was a little trickier tonight, because it was a close game," Ausmus said.
Romine started the game in left field. He did not stay there long:
First inning, LF: Romine had a busy first inning behind Tigers starter Buck Farmer, running down a Zack Granite line drive to begin the inning before catching an Eddie Rosario fly ball for the second out. He fielded Miguel Sano's ground-ball single, holding Joe Mauer at third base.
Second inning, CF: Romine shifted to center, bumping JaCoby Jones to right as Alex Presley shifted sides to left. Romine did not get any activity there, though he singled at the plate in the top of the inning and broke the news to Mauer.
"He didn't know we were doing it today," Romine said. "He thought we were doing it tomorrow, because I hadn't rotated yet. He just said, 'That's really cool.' I said, 'Got any pointers for catching?' And he said, 'You'll be fine.' That's what everybody said."
Third inning, RF: Romine and Jones traded spots for the third, with Romine fielding Rosario's ground-ball single.
Fourth inning, 3B: Ausmus started Nicholas Castellanos at third base -- his old position -- so they could make this swap, switching spots with Romine, who tracked down Eduardo Escobar's popup in foul territory.
Fifth inning, SS:Jeimer Candelario pinch-hit for Jose Iglesias in the top of the inning so they could put Candelario at third when Romine shifted over to shortstop. Romine turned a nice double play with second baseman Dixon Machado on Jorge Polanco to erase Mauer's leadoff walk.
"Watching him, you're thinking, 'Man, it's a blessing to be able to play positions,'" Canderlario said. "It's an experience. You see this guy and you say, 'Wow, this guy can play everywhere, even catcher.' It's impressive, and for him, it's awesome. I like him, and he's a good guy, too."
Sixth inning, 2B: Romine and Machado simply traded spots for this one, with no activity Romine's way.
Seventh inning, C/2B: This is when it grew really interesting, since Romine had never caught in a regular-season game. Ausmus said he was going to play it by ear when to catch Romine, making sure he would get a pitcher who's easy to catch. He caught Blaine Hardy, with catcher John Holaday moving to second base, but it wasn't easy.
"I'm really glad the Twins didn't pick up on this: Doc [Holaday] was at second base and he was giving little hand signals to kind of give him an idea of what [pitch] to call," Hardy said. "It was definitely a moment I'll always remember."
Once Granite singled home Ehire Adrianza, the potential tying run was on first base. Granite advanced to second when a Hardy pitch deflected off Romine's mitt -- a hand-me-down from his brother, Yankees catcher Austin Romine -- for a passed ball. Once Granite was in scoring position, James McCann -- who started at DH -- moved behind the plate, with Romine moving back to second base.
"It speeds up, man," Romine said. "When runners get on and things start happening, you don't want to put the wrong finger down. I had nightmares of putting down something and then they hit a home run."
Eighth inning, P/1B: Ausmus planned on Romine pitching the seventh or eighth. He wasn't planning on a difficult situation. But wanting Romine to pitch with nobody on base, he used him to begin the eighth against Sano.
"We joked," McCann said, "and we said, 'Just throw below the hitting speed. Whatever you do, don't get it up to 90.'"
Romine fell behind on a 3-1 count, but retired Sano on a ground ball to third on an 85 mph fastball.
"The first pitch bounced about halfway," Romine said. "I thought maybe I'd just lob one over the plate and get a quick strike, but I didn't even make it there. So then the next one I tried to throw a little harder, which I threw about halfway to the plate again. So I figured I can't walk the guy on four straight, I should probably just throw one down the middle, got one over and then he ended up topping one."
After that, Romine moved to first base, completing the nine, as the crowd at Target Field gave him a standing ovation.
"It got me a little bit teary-eyed to see that they recognized it," Romine said. "I didn't expect that. I didn't really even think that they were even going to talk about it. For them to do that and acknowledge that was really special. I can't thank them enough."
Ninth inning, 1B: For the first time, Romine didn't move, staying at first base for defense. And like the first out of the night, Romine was there to retire Granite, fielding a hard-hit grounder to finish off the win.
"Once I got done with the circus that we had going on, I was really just [thinking], 'Let's get this save,'" Romine said. "It was huge to get a W in the process of doing it."