Romine producing without putting ball in play

Romine producing without putting ball in play

DETROIT -- The list of Major League leaders in bases-loaded walks includes reigning American League MVP Josh Donaldson, his slugging Toronto teammate Troy Tulowitzki, home run producers Chris Carter and Mark Reynolds, and selective slugger Shin-Soo Choo. It also includes Andrew Romine.

Yes, Andrew Romine.

Yes, Romine was as surprised as anyone to learn that.

"I don't know what it is," he said Friday, a day after his third bases-loaded walk of the season brought in the go-ahead run in Thursday's 4-3 win over the Red Sox. "I don't know why they're having trouble throwing strikes. Maybe they're easing up because they know where the order of the lineup is. I don't know."

What Romine knows is that he's paid to get the run in, no matter how it happens, especially in that situation. A grand slam is a luxury. Whether he hits a single, draws a walk, is hit by a pitch -- he's had one of those this season too -- or forces a wild pitch, he wants the run.

More important, Romine knows that with the bases loaded, the pressure is more on the pitcher than him.

"Absolutely," he agreed. "They're the ones who are in the hole. They're the ones who are in a bad situation with the bases loaded.

"Just don't hit it at somebody and don't chase a ball and strike out. That's pretty much the only two things that you're looking to do."

With that approach, Romine has the bizarre split of being 0-for-4 with the bases loaded and no sacrifice flies, yet with five RBIs. Between three bases-loaded walks and a bases-loaded HBP, Romine has more RBIs this season without putting a ball in play (four) than he has making contact (three).

On Thursday, he didn't even swing the bat against Red Sox sidearming reliever Brad Ziegler. He squared to bunt once, but pulled the bat back as the pitch came inside on him. He took a first-pitch ball, a second-pitch called strike, then three consecutive pitches out of the strike zone. They weren't three straight pitches, because everything Ziegler throws has some movement.

"The first thing I'm looking for in his very first pitch is his arm angle," Romine said. "Everybody's got different arm angles, and if you can pinpoint where he's going to let go of the ball, then you can pick it up faster.

"I'm really just trying to pick up his pitches and see how much movement he has. Because everything he was throwing was moving, sinking down and away. So I was trying to see how far it was going to move, where I could track as many as I could before I had to swing at one that he threw over the plate."

He never did. And Romine brought in another runner this season without having to put a ball in play. This one was his biggest to date.

"It's the weirdest thing ever," he admitted.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for 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.