FORT MYERS, FLA. – Since the designated hitter was adopted by the American League in 1973, no major leaguer has ever hit a home run for the Twins and also surrendered a home run to them.
Andrew Romine believes he could be the guy. Versatility, after all, is what he's known for.
"If that's what it takes, sure, I'll give it a try," Romine said with a laugh after a workout in Twins camp, where he hopes he's preparing for his 11th major league season. "I'm not really a home run guy. If I tried to hit home runs, I would never have made it this far."
But here he is, at the tail end of a career he says has flown by, hoping to win a job with his fifth team, hoping to play … well, whatever position manager Rocco Baldelli asks. Literally any one. See, he's played them all.
In one day.
On the next-to-last day of the 2017 season at Target Field, with the Tigers eliminated from postseason contention and the Twins having clinched a wild-card berth, Romine was allowed to show off his many-gloves craftsmanship by becoming the fifth major leaguer ever to play all nine positions in one game. He spent three innings touring the outfield positions, the next three moving from left to right around the infield, then putting on the catcher's gear for a couple of harrowing outs (and a passed ball), facing (and retiring) Miguel Sano from the pitcher's rubber, and finishing the day at first base.
"Busy day, yeah. I think I got a ball everywhere but maybe one or two spots," Romine said of that 3-2 Tigers victory. "It was a one-run game — I got a hold, too! We didn't expect it to go like that, but it was fun."
But then, baseball is always fun for Romine, who offers no apologies for hanging on after his prime, looking for part-time work. The Twins are his fifth organization in the past four seasons, and his last three stops — with the Phillies, White Sox and Rangers — amounted to just two major league games, a mere four at-bats.
No matter. "Any time you get a chance to play, it's never disappointing. You get to play baseball and not have to do a real job yet," the 35-year-old brother of Cubs (and ex-Yankees) catcher Austin Romine said. The Twins "called last month and said they had some at-bats available and wanted to know if I wanted to come over. Are you kidding? I'm more than happy to continue to play baseball as long as I get a jersey, you know?"
Playing for the Twins and manager Rocco Baldelli strikes him as ideal, actually, since they have made "utility" more than a hazy, undefined job description. As he did with Marwin Gonzalez for two seasons, Baldelli has made it clear he intends to rest his regulars every week, with a player worthy of a starting job filling in all over the diamond.
Luis Arraez is the new model, but even the backup needs a backup, right? Romine is one of several candidates — Travis Blankenhorn, JT Riddle, Willians Astudillo and Nick Gordon are among the others — jockeying for a job. For a chance to do many jobs.
"[Someone who] can play in the middle of the field if you need some help at the more demanding positions, like shortstop. It's great to have quality major league candidates who can do a lot of different things, because you never know what you're going to need," Baldelli said. "Andrew knows exactly what he's doing. Experience does matter, especially in a role like that." Even knowing how to handle not playing, he said.
Romine came up as a shortstop with the Angels in 2010, but it wasn't long before he was asked a question for which there is only one answer: Can you play another position? "If you say no, they're going to send you down, so, of course, you say yes," he said of being asked to handle third base, then second, and eventually the outfield. "Even if you can't, you're going to learn it, and you'll learn it fast. I was at the park at 6 a.m. taking ground balls until I could hardly breathe."
That ethic even applies to pitching. Romine has taken the mound seven times, the first of them in Target Field in 2014. Asked to pitch the ninth inning of a game the Tigers trailed by 11, he gave up a double to Kennys Vargas, threw a wild pitch, then surrendered a home run to Oswaldo Arcia.
Up next: Trevor Plouffe, a longtime friend from Southern California, where they played on competing teams several times.
Yes, Plouffe homered, too, but Romine remembers why. "He hit a curveball. I didn't actually have a curveball, and I never threw it again," Romine said. "He still gives me grief about it."