Detroit — Imagine how terrifying it would be sitting in your parents’ house, watching the news footage of a wildfire raging though your city and then noticing that the helicopters were flying over your house.
“We saw our house,” said former Tigers’ super utility man Andrew Romine. “The helicopters were flying above, trying to keep the fire from going this way or that way. And we’re watching and I was like, ‘That’s my house!’”
Romine and his wife live in a beautiful house tucked away in a bucolic cul-de-sac in Anaheim, Calif. What thoughts must go through a person’s mind as you helplessly watch news footage of a fire hovering near the house you love?
“The only thing I could think of was, ‘I’m going to have to live with my parents the whole offseason.”
“Seriously. Me and my wife are going to have to move, pack up all our things and live with my parents the whole offseason,” he said.
The Romines caught a break, though. The winds shifted that day.
“We got so lucky because the wind pushed it,” he said. “The fire ended up going over the hills instead of around the hills. We’re located around the hills.”
Romine is back at Comerica Park this weekend, now plying his super-utility skill set with the Seattle Mariners.
“It’s cool,” he said of his transition to a new team after four seasons in Detroit. “These guys are really laid-back. It’s a really chill team. But, obviously, we’re winning and everybody is happy when they win. But it’s a good place, a good organization. I like it.”
It would have cost probably close to $2 million for the Tigers to retain Romine for this season. He was arbitration-eligible and industry estimates were for him to earn $1.9 million if he went to arbitration.
But, entering the first stage of a rebuilding process and still over the luxury-tax threshold, the Tigers determined Romine’s Swiss Army knife versatility was a luxury they could not afford.
He was waived and quickly claimed by the Mariners.
“It wasn’t totally a surprise,” Romine said. “I saw what was happening, with them getting rid of contracts and the rebuild, or whatever you want to call it. I thought it was 50-50 for me. I would not have been surprised if they brought me back and I wasn’t surprised when they didn’t.”
Romine said he didn’t lobby with general manager Al Avila for one or the other. It’s not his style and he would never presume that to be his place.
“Al knows that I just want to play baseball,” Romine said. “I don’t really care. I just want to be in the big leagues playing against the best players in the world. I understand it’s a business. I’m not stupid. We know how things work.
“Money is always an issue, especially when you are over the cap like we were when I was over here.”
Actually, Romine saw the writing on the wall last September. He and Avila were in the gym working out at the same time and Romine sidled over.
“I just said, ‘Hey, how far over (the cap) are we? What’s got to happen? How many contracts do we have to get rid of?’” Romine said. “And he was like, ‘It looks like a lot.’ In my situation, it wasn’t like I could say, ‘What are you guys going to do? I need to know something.’
“Because I didn’t need to know. You are either going to bring me back or you aren’t. I don’t have a say. I would have been more than happy to come back. But it’s a business and I don’t get to make that decision.”
It’s worked out well. Going to Seattle was a homecoming of sorts for him. Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto was the GM in Anaheim when Romine broke into the big leagues. And Scott Servais, now the Mariners manager, was Dipoto’s assistant in Anaheim.
“Yeah, I kind of went back to the guys I was already with,” Romine said. “They were the ones who traded me to Detroit…I was more than happy to get the call from Jerry. He was the one who called and said, ‘Hey, we want you to come in and do what you were doing in Detroit. And we’re looking to compete in this division and win.’
“I was more than happy to get back with them.”
Romine has made just four starts and played in 17 games with the Mariners. And the worst part, he didn’t get his first Mariners’ hit until May 5 — after 15 straight hitless plate appearances.
“Everybody goes 0-for-14, 0-for-15, but when it spans a whole month because you don’t play much — it feels like on 0-for-50,” Romine said. “I felt like I wasn’t even part of the team, until I got a couple of hits.”
He slammed a double off the wall against the Angels to break the skid and immediate asked for the ball. His teammates fell out. And then got three hits on Thursday in Toronto.
Life is good for Romine. He’s in Detroit on Mother’s Day weekend. His wife is with him. He will get a home-cooked meal from his sister who still lives in the area and spend time with his niece and nephew.
And, in all seriousness, he’s grateful he dodged a bullet with the wildfire. So much so, he’s considering eliminating the risk of it happening again. He’s actually thinking about ditching his blissful little house in the cul-de-sac.
“When it was all over, I was like, this isn’t a problem we need to have,” he said. “We don’t need to be worried every time we leave our house that a fire is going to burn it down. This is ridiculous.”
Martin in Miami
Before he was put on the disabled list on Wednesday, center fielder Leonys Martin had received permission to spend the off-day Thursday at home in Miami to be with his father, who has health issues.
When the tests came back on his ailing left hamstring, the Tigers arranged for Martin to see a physical therapist while he was there.
“He did see a physical therapist and he’s much improved,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “It’s all set up there and they are communicating with our people here. And it looks a lot better. So, we will see him in a day or two.”
Around the horn
Very few topics have been off limits with Gardenhire, but he didn’t want to touch Mets manager Mickey Callaway’s lineup card snafu from Wednesday (they batted out of order in the first inning). “That never happened to me and I don’t want to talk about it,” he said. “It’s taboo. You don’t talk about that in the manager’s chair. It’s not right. I saw it, it’s a nightmare. We live it every day. We check those things out eight thousand times. I don’t like it. I don’t want to talk about it. I have bad dreams about those things.”
… Jordan Zimmermann (on the DL with shoulder impingement) threw lightly for about five minutes Friday.
… Alex Wilson (on the DL with a ruptured plantar fascia) sat on a stool and played catch with bullpen catcher John Murrian.