DETROIT — How much will Andrew Romine play for the Detroit Tigers? That will depend not only on how well he hits, but if he ends up showing more defensively than Alex Gonzalez.
Detroit acquired the 28-year-old switch-hitter from the Los Angeles Angels after starting shortstop Jose Iglesias was shelved with shin stress fractures. The Tigers also picked up Gonzalez, 37, from the Baltimore Orioles to provide two viable options.
There’s no need to platoon the pair because Gonzalez, who bats right-handed, has hit .248 against right-handed pitchers and .240 against lefties. Romine, who briefly opted to hit only lefty before returning to both sides, had a career-high 108 at-bats last season and has hit .250 in the majors.
Gonzalez, who is batting .375 and had a walk-off hit Opening Day, got the first two starts.
Romine’s turn came Friday in the opener of a three-game series with the Orioles, who are starting Steve Lombardozzi at second base. Detroit dealt Lombardozzi to Baltimore for Gonzalez on March 24, three days after trading left-handed pitcher Jose Alvarez for Romine.
"I love it," Romine said of getting into the lineup. "And I love being on this team. They have a great clubhouse atmosphere here and a great staff. They accepted me from the minute I walked in the door. I know Torii (Hunter) from when we played together on the Angels, and he’s had a big influence on me and the players on this team. If Torii accepts you immediately, it helps others accept you quickly."
Romine has found a place to live in Novi, where his sister, Janelle Alexander, also lives.
"That’s also helped me fit in here quickly," said Romine, who grew up in Southern California and still lives there. "It’s awesome, and they (family) are so excited about me coming to the Tigers."
Romine has a friendly, out-going nature and probably would’ve fit in quickly with or without Hunter. He’s already made fast friends with his new double play partner, second baseman Ian Kinsler.
"Ian’s been great," Romine said. "He’s been very, very communicative. We’re working on exchanges and learning where he wants the ball and I want the ball."
Romine has split time between shortstop and third base, while also playing some at second.
"He looks like a shortstop," said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus. "I think we’ve spoken to the importance of the defensive side of that position."
Romine has more range than Gonzalez, but doesn’t have as much pop in his bat. Romine has only has three extra-base hits (all doubles) in 152 at-bats in the majors. Though, he has hit .333 against right-handed pitchers from the left side. That’s why he abandoned switch-hitting briefly.
"My left-handed swing just felt a lot better," Romine said. "But I never stopped hitting from the right side in the cages, and I’ll switch-hit in games now, too."
His father, former Boston Red Sox outfielder Kevin Romine, converted him into a switch-hitter in Little League. Andrew naturally hit right-handed just like his father, who batted .251 with five homers in 630 at-bats for Boston, 1985-91.
"We’d like to get (Holaday) into the game," said Ausmus, "But Alex doesn’t really need a rest with the off day and rain out."
Detroit also is facing three right-handed starters in the Baltimore series, and Holaday is a right-handed hitter. So, it also makes sense to keep the left-handed bat of Avila in the lineup for match-up purposes.
Holaday hit .296 in 27 at-bats last year for Detroit, when Brayan Pena was the primary backup.
Miguel Cabrera entered Friday’s game with the highest batting average (.390), on-base percentage (.473) and slugging percentage (.733) of any active player against the Orioles. He has 16 homers in 172 at-bats against them for one every 10.75 at-bats.
Cabrera, who switched from third to first base this year, and right fielder Hunter were presented 2013 Silver Slugger awards as the top hitter at their position prior to Friday’s game. Max Scherzer also was honored as the 2013 Cy Young Award winner.
Detroit has a chance to become the first team in baseball history to open its season with three consecutive walk-off wins if it can take the lead in the ninth inning or extra innings on Friday. The Tigers are the first team to open the season with consecutive walk-off wins since the 2004 Minnesota Twins, according to Elias Sports Bureau.