MINNEAPOLIS — All eyes were on Andrew Romine on Saturday night, from the first out in the bottom of the first inning — a flyout to him in left field — to the final out of the ninth inning — a groundout to him at first base.
Those two plays book-ended what proved to be a terrific night at Target Field. Romine, the Detroit Tigers’ utilityman, became the fifth player in major league history to play all nine defensive positions. The Tigers, so bad in September, ended the month with a 3-2 victory.
“Everything that happened was kind of surreal,” Romine said.
Including the move that went down in the history books, when manager Brad Ausmus moved Romine from the pitcher’s mound to first base, replacing Efren Navarro in the eighth inning. Romine and Navarro are great friends; they began their minor-league careers as teammates and Navarro stood up in Romine’s wedding.
The Tigers won, 3-2. The outcome hardly mattered: It was Romine’s night.
“When it’s all said and done, when we wrap it up and I hang up the cleats, I guess I’ll have to look back and re-evaluate but right now, this is it, man,” he said.
Romine accomplished the feat with his mother, June, his two sisters and his wife, Kathryn, in the stands. He used his younger brother Austin’s catcher’s mitt for four batters in the seventh inning. Austin is a Yankees catcher. Prior to Saturday night’s game, Romine had played every position but catcher for the Tigers.
“He was a lot better than I thought,” said Tigers pitcher Blaine Hardy, whom Romine caught.
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The game got hairy for Ausmus, who was forced with having Romine face slugger Miguel Sano to lead off the bottom of the eighth inning with the Twins down a run.
“To be honest with you, once I stepped on the mound, the score, the runners, all that stuff was out of my head,” Romine said. “I was just trying to throw it to (catcher James McCann’s) glove and make sure that I wasn’t hitting somebody.
“I kind of had to calm my nerves down a little bit because I knew once I got done with this, it was over with and we could move on with the rest of the game.”
Romine got Sano to ground out and was relieved by left-hander Daniel Stumpf.
But the hairiest situation came an inning earlier, when Romine went behind the plate for the first time in his career.
With one out, Hardy allowed a single and a double, bringing the tying run to the plate. Romine had allowed a passed ball and Ausmus opted to substitute him with McCann, moving him to second base for the second time in the game.
Hardy ended the inning with two strikeouts, Stumpf relieved Romine by recording two outs in the eighth inning and Shane Greene picked up his ninth save of the season in the ninth.
“It feels good to get the win and to still have Romine play all nine positions,” Ausmus said.
Romine joined Bert Campaneris, Cesar Tovar, Scott Sheldon and former Tiger Shane Halter as the only players to play all nine defensive positions in a single game.
Also starring in the effort were the Twins, who recognized Romine’s achievement on the scoreboard and the fans, who were aware of what was going on.
“It got me a little bit teary-eyed to see that they recognized that,” he said. “I didn’t expect that. I didn’t really even think that they were going to talk about it. For them to do that and acknowledge that, it was really special. I can’t thank them enough.”