DETROIT — Andrew Romine is not a power hitter. He doesn't consider himself one despite an adjustment to his swing over the offseason that has born fruit in the early going. But it's the most comfortable he's felt at the plate in his major league career.
"It was directional changes with my swing," Romine said. "Not really like an overhaul or anything, more just trying to keep my line more towards the pitcher as opposed to hitting around and pulling off, kind of glancing balls. I've been trying to get through balls with more power — everyone says power but it's really just your direction."
Romine's defense is his strength. His offense, not so much. As a backup utility player, he needed the Tigers to be able to rely on him for more than his glove. He needed to become more indispensable in an industry that will drop bench players like yesterday's news if you don't perform well enough.
It was a months-long pursuit that started with his brother, Austin, a backup catcher with the Yankees, and his dad, Kevin, a former big leaguer. Andrew has a greater affinity for video breakdowns than his brother, so Andrew would pour over video and then bring it to his brother.
The trio would spend time together tweaking various things with Andrew's swing, seeing what would work and throwing out the rest. Time consuming, but worth it.
It took countless hours of video review. Dozens of swings every day from both sides. And this was before spring training even started.
Once spring training started, Romine began incorporating the changes he'd made to that point into whatever games he was able to play. He and his brother live together during spring, so the two continued to analyze and adjust his swing, and eventually Romine saw results.
"You could see the results (in spring) and I could see the ball carrying a little bit more," Romine said. "I'm really just trying to do the same thing and not change it just because the season started."
In his first two games of the regular season, Romine served in a replacement role to finish out those games. When he actually got his first start of the season, Romine finished 2-for-4 with a double. He was 2-for-3 in his next game, both doubles as well.
Then, Wednesday happened. In his first at-bat of the day, Romine grounded out, but his fortunes turned dramatically in the fourth inning. Facing Kyle Gibson for the second time, he was looking for something soft. With the bases loaded and Tyler Collins having just hit an RBI single, Romine walloped a 1-2 slider deep into the right field seats.
He doesn't remember the bat flip, but he did get the game ball back from the fan who caught it. And of course, there was that "random" drug test that followed immediately after the game. Romine didn't care. He's now tied with his dad for grand slams and now holds the Romine family lead in career home runs.
Perhaps the most difficult about the work Romine put in over the offseason will be maintaining his altered swing. He may find himself in the lineup with a little more frequency if he continues his hot hitting, but it's not likely that he'll replace any of the starting nine anytime soon.
"That's the tough part," he said. "We started the season, I didn't play for a week and in the back of my mind there's always that thought 'OK is my swing still there?' Because I can do all the stuff in the cage, the flips, and BP, but is there when I get in the box during the game?"
Only time will tell in that respect. For Romine, it's tricky when there's the possibility that he could go days or weeks between playing in games. Not every pinch hit or regular at-bat will result in a grand slam or even a home run. But by redesigning his swing, Romine is hoping it will at least produce more consistent results when he needs them. Right now, he's just "having a blast."