Minneapolis — The Tigers’ Andrew Romine gained a measure of super-utility player immortality Saturday. He became the fifth player in the history of major league baseball to play all nine positions in one game.
“That was something else,” he said. “I was trying to focus as much as I could without getting caught up in the moment and all the moving around. It got hectic, but it was a lot of fun.”
Romine caught the first out of the game playing left field, he caught the last out of the game playing first base, and he got one of the biggest outs pitching in the eighth inning and the Tigers beat the Twins 3-2.
“I think it meant a lot to Romine,” said manager Brad Ausmus, who choreographed all the positional movements. “He’s not a guy who wants or gets a lot of attention. And he’s unique in the sense he can play pretty much anywhere and you feel comfortable playing him anywhere, with the exception of pitcher and catcher.
“This gave him a day in the sun, so to speak.”
Romine joins Bert Campaneris (Sept. 8, 1965), Cesar Tovar (Sept. 22, 1968), Scott Sheldon (Sept. 6, 2000) and former Tiger Shane Halter (Oct. 1, 2000) on the short list. And when he left the field after the eighth inning, after he retired slugger Miguel Sano on a ground ball to third base, he got a standing ovation from the Twins fans.
“That got me a little bit teary-eyed to see them recognize it,” Romine said. “I didn’t expect that. I didn’t really think they would even talk about it. So for them to do that and acknowledge it the way they did, that was really special.
“I can’t thank them enough.”
Romine saved the tough jobs — catcher and pitcher — for the seventh and eighth innings. When he took the mound to start the eighth inning against Sano, who was representing the tying run, he became the first position player ever to pitch in a save situation.
“I’m not sure I wanted him to face Sano in a one-run game, but he got him out,” Ausmus said. “I was thinking I could bring in one of our relievers and do this all over again tomorrow but we were already too far invested. It worked out all right.”
Romine missed badly with his first two pitches to Sano. But he got a called strike on an 80-mph pitch. His fastball touched 88 mph on the 2-1 pitch but missed the plate. Then he got Sano to ground out to third on an 85-mph fastball.
“We joked with him, we said just throw it below the hitting speed,” catcher James McCann said. “Don’t get up to 90 because that’s right at hitting speed. Just try to find a way to throw strikes and not serve up a meatball. He found a way to do it.”
Romine went to first after that, completing his nine-position tour.
“I had to calm my nerves down a little bit,” he said. “I knew once I got done (pitching), it was over with and we could move on to the rest of the game. It was fun. Getting to face a guy like Sano and actually getting him out, that was really cool.”
Romine caught behind four batters in the seventh, an adventurous four batters.
“I’ve seen a few position players try to get back there and catch a bullpen,” said lefty Blaine Hardy, who was on the mound in the seventh. “Sure enough, you will throw one pitch that breaks a lot and one pitch that doesn’t. They’re expecting it to break, they go for it and it hits them in the chest.
“He didn’t have any of those tonight, so it was a success for him.”
Bryan Holaday moved from catcher to second base to make room for Romine behind the plate. And he was giving pitch-call suggestions to Romine from second base.
“I know what I want to throw,” Hardy said. “But I’m really glad the Twins didn’t pick up on the fact that Doc was giving hand signals at second base, giving Romine ideas of what he should call.”
Romine did a decent job, though he had one passed ball, which allowed the tying run to get to second base.
“I took him out of the catcher’s position early,” Ausmus said. “I was hoping he could get through the inning, but with the game as close as it was, I didn’t want our pitchers to be victims of us trying to get Romine through nine positions.”
Here is an inning-by-inning account of Romine’s historical tour around the diamond.
First inning: He started in left field and made the play on two of the three outs. But it was a laborious, 38-pitch inning by starting pitcher Buck Farmer. He walked Max Kepler with the bases loaded and the Twins broke on top, 1-0.
Farmer was able to strike out Eduardo Escobar on three pitches to strand the bases loaded.
“Maybe once they got a couple things going, maybe I let it speed up on me,” Farmer said. “But I took a step back and made pitches when I had to. Holding them to one run, that was the difference in the game.”
Second inning: After the Tigers scored an unearned run in the top of the inning, Romine, who singled, moved to center field. JaCoby Jones went from center to left field and Alex Presley from right to left.
Third inning: Still a 1-1 game, Romine completed his outfield tour, moving to right field. Jones went back to center and Presley stayed in left.
Fourth inning: Romine is at third base, moving Nick Castellanos to right field.
Romine caught a foul pop-up by Escobar for the first out of the inning. Farmer settled in, allowing two hits and a walk from the second inning through the fourth. The game stayed tied, 1-1.
Fifth inning: It was clear Romine’s next stop was going to be shortstop when Ausmus sent up Jeimer Candelario to pinch hit for Jose Iglesias in the top of the inning. Romine had walked and was erased on a fielder’s choice ground out Jones.
Jones stole second and scored on Candelario’s single to left. Candelario went to second on the throw to the plate and kept running to third on a throwing error by catcher Jason Castro.
Candelario then scored on a ground out by Presley — 3-1 Tigers.
The Tigers made a bid for another in the fifth. Castellanos ripped a single to left, but Presley was gunned down at the plate by a strong, on-the-money throw by Eddie Rosario. Rosario had a chance to get Jones earlier, but his throw was high and up the line.
He didn’t miss twice.
Farmer walked Joe Mauer for the second time to lead off the bottom of the fifth. But he got Jorge Polanco to hit into a 4-6-3 double play, Romine flawlessly handling the turn at second base.
Dixon Machado ended the inning with a sterling defensive play at second base. He went far to his left and dove to get Rosario’s grounder. He then threw him out from the seat of his pants.
That ended Farmer’s night. He allowed four hits, two after the first inning, four walks and a run.
Sixth inning: Romine, who struck out to end the top half of the inning, scooted over to second base, swapping positions with Machado. Chad Bell took over on the mound.
Bell dispatched the Twins quickly, striking out Miguel Sano and Kepler, and getting Escobar to fly to center.
Seventh inning: Things got interesting, as Romine made his big-league debut behind the plate.
He would catch for four batters. Ehire Adrianza hit a line drive to the gap in right center. Jones got a terrific jump on it, did a full dive, got his glove on it but couldn’t haul it in. It was a double and Adrianza scored on a single by Zack Granite.
Romine missed a high outside pitch from Hardy — his only mistake of the game — allowing Granite to get to second. It was scored a passed ball.
Romine went back to second base after a walk to Mauer. McCann, the designated hitter, came in to catch. Holaday was out of the game. The Tigers also lost their designated hitter with those moves.
“That was a moment I will always remember,” Hardy said. “The crazy thing was that it was his first time ever that he caught. He’s done everything else but catch and I got to be the guy that threw to him. It’s an amazing feat to play all nine positions. Everybody is proud of him.”
Hardy got out of the inning, getting Polanco and Rosario to fly to center, keeping the Tigers ahead, 3-2.
Eighth inning: Romine described his five-pitch at-bat against Sano.
“The first pitch bounced halfway to the plate,” he said. “I thought maybe I could just lob one over the plate and get a quick strike and I didn’t even make it there. So the next one I tried to throw harder and it bounced halfway to the plate again.
“I figured, I can’t walk him on four pitches, just throw one down the middle. Luckily he took it, then I got one that he topped — a lucky ground ball to third.”
Daniel Stumpf retired the next two hitters to close the eighth.
Ninth inning: Romine finished the game at first base.
Closer Shane Greene locked down the win, dispatching the Twins in order for his ninth save.
And it was only fitting that Romine got the final out, picking a ground ball by Granite and stepping on first.
“That was a lot of fun to see,” McCann said. “And the cool part was he made the first out and the last out of the game. Pretty neat.”