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Romine may have leg up for backup infield job

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Andrew Romine is one of five players, all with big league time, vying for the backup infield spot vacated by long-time Angel Maicer Izturis. But since the start of camp, it's Romine -- and only Romine -- who has been taking groundballs with the first team, joining Alberto Callaspo, Erick Aybar, Howie Kendrick and Albert Pujols for infield drills.

He isn't about to take that as a sign that he's the favorite to open the season in the big leagues, though.

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"No signs," Romine said, smiling. "That part of the game will get you in trouble."

Romine is competing with Bill Hall, Tommy Field, Brendan Harris and Luis Rodriguez for one of the open bench spots this spring, but he may have a few things pointing in his favor.

Romine is most comfortable at shortstop, with the ability to play second and third base. He bats left-handed (besides Rodriguez, a switch-hitter, the other three bat from the right side). He's on the 40-man roster (along with only Field). And he's the only homegrown player of the group.

The Angels' bench will include Vernon Wells and the backup catcher, leaving two spots vacant. Placing Romine on the Opening Day roster would be appealing to the Angels because he'd provide both a left-handed bat off the bench and the ability to play shortstop, clearing an easier path for Hall -- long removed from his days as a shortstop, but the most accomplished non-roster position player -- to also make the team.

"I believe that I'm a Major League Baseball player," Romine said. "I have the skill set to do it, and as long as I perform to my ability, I think I should be here."

The 27-year-old Romine was taken in the fifth round in 2007 and has compiled a .277/.352/.363 slash line in his six-year Minor League career. Over the last three years, he's appeared in 27 games for the Angels, going 10-for-44 with 13 strikeouts and four walks.

During that time, Romine has picked Izturis' brain about the difficult task of adjusting to sporadic playing time.

"I did see this developing over the last couple years, so I hung out a lot around Maicer," Romine said. "I talked to him. I figured out what was going on in his head, because he was very good at what he did.

"He always stressed being ready, at any time. Because especially in this organization, anything can happen. I can pinch-hit late, or I can just come in and run in an important situation. Anything can happen."

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