Tigers utility man Romine pitches against KC

Tigers utility man Romine pitches against KC

KANSAS CITY -- The Tigers can't keep relying on Justin Wilson and Shane Greene to pitch every tight game in the late innings, manager Brad Ausmus said on Friday.

One night later, Ausmus called on utility man Andrew Romine to finish off a 16-5 loss to the Royals.

It wasn't the kind of relief depth Ausmus meant. But it demonstrated the depth of the bullpen's struggles beyond its late-inning core. For the sake of saving other relievers and finishing off a long night, it was the Tigers' last resort.

"It's not unheard of," Ausmus said. "It happens at some point for every team during the season. But yeah, it's embarrassing. You don't want to do that. You don't want Andrew Romine to go out there and get hurt."

It was the second career outing for Romine, who pitched in a game two years ago under similar circumstances. The switch-hitting middle infielder, who has added positions during his Tigers tenure, was a relief pitcher on his high school team in California, where he threw to younger brother Austin Romine.

That was a long time ago. Andrew Romine's fastball now reaches the upper 80s, complemented by a knuckleball that he struggles to command but can get to dance around the plate.

Romine was the fifth reliever the Tigers used on Saturday. He was essentially the emergency option if Mark Lowe, the setup man Ausmus is trying to get back to form after early-season struggles, couldn't finish the eighth. While Lowe began the inning, Romine began warming in the batting cage.

Once Lowe gave up six straight one-out singles to stretch the deficit to double digits, Ausmus pulled his emergency option with two men on.

Romine walked Jarrod Dyson on five pitches to load the bases, then got a fielder's choice ground ball from Cheslor Cuthbert to score one of the runners he inherited. Another walk to Whit Merrifield loaded the bases again before Romine induced an inning-ending groundout from Christian Colon.

Thus, two years after Romine's three-run inning, he was the only Tigers pitcher not charged with a run on Saturday. It was Romine's seventh position played this season, joining all four infield positions, center and right field.

Romine is also the Tigers' emergency catcher, which is why he'll sneak behind the plate between innings every once in a while to warm up a pitcher. He would like to play all nine positions in a game at some point in his career, something just four players have done in modern history. The last was a Tiger, Shane Halter, on the final day of the 2000 season, a game Ausmus played in.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.