Tigers’ Romine gets start in Anaheim homecoming

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Anaheim, Calif. — It wasn’t sentimental. Not for manager Brad Ausmus, anyway.

That he gave Andrew Romine the start at shortstop Monday had nothing to do with this being his hometown, or that he played parts of his first four big-league seasons with the Angels.

“I know he’s from here, but that’s not why,” Ausmus said. “He needs to play. I just played him.”

It wasn’t all that sentimental for Romine, either, though his father, former Red Sox outfielder Kevin Romine, was expected to be in attendance.

“I get to sleep in my own bed,” Romine said. “I get to see my dog and hang out with my wife. It’s hard to even come to the field.”

Romine grew up near here and maintains his home literally 10 minutes from Angel Stadium.

“It’s like I automatically switch to off-season mode when I’m here,” he said. “My house is closer than the hotel…It’s another day, I guess, for me in my head, when I drive these roads. Then I will realize, ‘Oh, I’ve got to go to the field. I’ve got to go to work.’ ”

When his father was playing for the Red Sox, Romine used to hang around the clubhouse at Fenway Park, often with Roger Clemens’ son. He was around 6 years old at the time and all he remembers is hiding in lockers and running off with the bubble gum buckets.

But he considers this park, Angels Stadium, the one he grew up attending games at, the one where he made his big-league debut, as home.

“My first game was here (Sept. 24, 2010),” he said. “It’s home. It’s really home. I went to school here, elementary school, high school. A lot of my friends still live here. This is just home for me.”

This will be only the third start this month for Romine, his first since May 22. He’s only had 12 plate appearances this month and 25 all season. It’s tough duty. By contrast, at his point last season he had 43 plate appearances and was hitting .342. He has but two hits this season.

Still, Ausmus is hoping he can provide some kind of spark out of the No. 9 hole in the order, something that’s been sorely missing this season.

Starter Jose Iglesias is having a miserable May, hitting .167 with a .177 on-base percentage, .256 slugging percentage and .434 OPS. He’s produced just five extra-base hits and 8 RBIs in 80 plate appearances this month. He’s struck out 12 times and walked once.

“He’s a better hitter than he’s shown,” Ausmus said.

He said the same about Justin Upton and James McCann, two other regulars at the bottom of the order struggling mightily in May.

“All three are better than they’ve shown,” Ausmus said. “All three are hitting below their career numbers.”

Upton is hitting .217 in May, with a .286 on-base, .301 slugging and .587 OPS. In 91 plate appearances, he’s produced seven extra-base hits (all doubles) and two RBIs, with 32 strikeouts and eight walks.

McCann is hitting .169 this month, .222 on-base, .220 slugging and .443 OPS. He has one extra base hit and seven RBIs in 63 plate appearances with 19 strikeouts and three walks.

“Baseball is a six-month season,” Ausmus said. “You assume water finds its level.”

That may be more of a comfort regarding Upton than Iglesias or McCann, who have far shorter track records.

Twitter: @cmccosky