Andrew Romine played all nine positions on Saturday, and Miguel Sano didn’t play any. One was a gimmick, one was a gamble.
Romine, the Tigers utility man, was rewarded for his value and versatility for manager Brad Ausmus by becoming the fifth player in major league history to man all nine defensive positions in one game. Sano, limited to being the Twins designated hitter because of a lingering stress reaction in his left shin, was in the starting lineup for the first time in six weeks, in hopes of proving that he’s worth having on the roster in Tuesday’s American League wild-card game against the Yankees in New York.
It’s safe to say the Twins were intrigued, if not necessarily impressed, by both efforts in Detroit’s 3-2 victory at Target Field.
Sano is the more immediate concern of the Twins, since except for a two-pitch at-bat on Friday, he hasn’t seen live pitching since Aug. 19. He offered reasons for hope and reasons for worry in his first full game back. Sano rocketed a first-inning 3-0 fastball to left field in the first inning, proving his swing is as powerful as ever. But he also struck out twice on breaking balls and, batting against Romine in the eighth inning, hit a routine grounder to third base on a 3-1 pitch. On both balls he put in play, Sano jogged slowly to first base, careful not to put any strain on his leg.
“Station-to-station, that’s what we’re going to see,” Molitor said of Sano’s baserunning. The manager said he saw problems with “some of the things we’re concerned about — pitch recognition, timing. Not surprising. He had games like that when he was in midseason form, too, so that’s what was tough.”
Still, Molitor said about his upcoming decision about the playoff roster, “I’m leaning to thinking that even the threat [of Sano] is something that has value.”
Righthander Aaron Slegers, the starting pitcher on a night when the Twins were avoiding using pitchers expected to take part in Tuesday’s playoff game, gave up three runs, two earned, over 4⅓ innings in his first start since Sept. 6. But the Twins failed numerous times to capitalize on threats, scoring only single runs in the first inning — when Detroit starter Buck Farmer walked Max Kepler with the bases loaded — and the eighth, when Zack Granite drove in Ehire Adrianza.
Romine spent the first three innings checking off the outfield positions an inning at a time, covered three of the four infield spots over innings 4-6, caught for four batters during a Twins rally in the seventh, and took the mound to start the eighth inning. He retired Sano on five pitches, the last a fastball clocked at 86 miles per hour that Sano grounded to third. Then he moved to first base, to the applause of an announced crowd of 35,515.
Romine joins an exclusive club to have achieved the feat, including the Twins’ Cesar Tovar in 1968. Others to do it: Bert Campaneris of the Kansas City Athletics in 1965, Scott Sheldon of the Texas Rangers in 2000, and the Tigers’ Shane Halter in 2000 — Halter also did it against the Twins.
“It’s kind of a cute little thing for someone who’s versatile to get an opportunity to do that. I’m not a huge fan of it,” Molitor said before the game. “It’s not a big deal. I like Romine, he’s kind of been a Twin-killer. For him to get a chance to do that, maybe it’s been on his bucket list for a while. It’s fine. We’ll applaud and see how he does.”