Weird baseball came early to the Tigers this weekend. Instead of allowing Andrew Romine to start at all nine positions on Sunday, as announced, club manager Brad Ausmus decided to have the outfielder go for the feat during Saturday’s 3-2 win over the Twins.
This doesn’t happen often. It’s the kind of end-of-season gimmick that helps draw crowds to a losing team and gives diehard fans a neat piece of trivia. In fact, only four other major league players have ever played all nine positions in a single game: Royals’ shortstop Bert Campaneris (1965), Twins’ infielder/outfielder Cesar Tovar (1968), Rangers’ infielder Scott Sheldon (2000) and Tigers’ infielder Shane Halter (2000). (A bonus fun fact: Ausmus was playing behind the dish on the day that Halter started at all nine positions, per MLB.com’s Jason Beck.)
Here’s how it all went down:
Romine started Saturday’s game in a familiar position, taking his spot in left field for the first inning. He fielded two fly ball outs, but couldn’t quite get to Miguel Sano’s line drive single in time, and Tigers’ right-hander Buck Farmer walked in a run in the next at-bat.
In the second, Romine shook things up in the outfield. He shifted to center, while right fielder Alex Presley moved to left field and JaCoby Jones left his post in center field to cover right field. This time, no balls were hit in Romine’s direction, and Farmer held the Twins to a solitary walk.
Romine completed his tour of the outfield in the third inning, swapping places with Jones again so he could try out the right field corner. Eddie Rosario slapped a first-pitch single in Romine’s direction, but was left stranded as Sano and Max Kepler went down swinging to end the threat.
With all three outfield positions checked off, Romine changed places with third baseman Nick Castellanos in the fourth inning. Perhaps he’s a magnet: Eduardo Escobar popped out in the first at-bat, sending Romine hustling for the ball in foul territory.
Ausmus inserted Jeimer Candelario as a pinch-hitter in the top of the fifth inning, and the rookie returned to man the hot corner in the bottom of the inning while Romine tried his glove at shortstop. Joe Mauer led off with a walk, but Jorge Polanco gave Romine the opportunity he needed to test his double-play skills, grounding into a 4-6-3 play to catch Mauer at second base.
The Tigers stuck with their by-the-book strategy, keeping Romine moving around the horn in the sixth as he scooted over to second base and Dixon Machado shifted to short. Romine didn’t get any whizbangers here, though, as Chad Bell stepped in to replace Farmer and set down a quick 1-2-3 half-inning.
The real test of the night came in the seventh, when Romine made his first career appearance behind the dish. It’s a position his brother, Yankees’ catcher Austin Romine, is much more familiar with, and one that Andrew didn’t take a special shine to during his brief tryout on Saturday — despite getting to use his brother’s hand-me-down glove. He guided Blaine Hardy through four at-bats (with some generous help from Bryan Holaday at second base), during which Hardy induced a fly out, line drive double, RBI single, and a walk. Romine, meanwhile, contributed his first (and hopefully last) passed ball, and briefly returned to second base while James McCann stepped in to catch the rest of the inning.
Romine’s leash was even shorter when he got on the mound in the eighth. He missed the strike zone with his first two pitches and worked a 3-1 count before inducing a Miguel Sano groundout. That may have been too close for comfort for Ausmus, however, who moved Romine to first base for his ninth and final position of the night.
Romine fielded a routine grounder to end the eighth inning and returned in the bottom of the ninth as the Twins tried to rally for a late lead, capping the Tigers’ win after palming a Zack Granite grounder at first base.
“Right now, I’m just happy we won. I think it’ll kick in a little bit when I go and sit down and celebrate with the guys in the locker room,” the exhausted infielder/outfielder/catcher/pitcher said following the game. “Relief, happiness, you name it, I’m feeling it right now. It’s so much fun.”
Let’s hope he gets a breather tomorrow. He’s earned it.