Back in Trenton, Austin Romine is the Thunder's unquestioned leader
There’s no “C” stitched on his jersey, but Romine — entering his sequel season in the Eastern League — is unquestionably the captain of the defending Eastern division champions.
“I feel like a little more responsibility falls on me now, being my second time here” he said during the team’s media session on Tuesday. “I’m in a better position to handle my staff off the bat, I guess you could say, because I’ve caught a lot of these guys and we have that relationship. I’m looking to build more relationships with the new pitchers we have.”
With the Thunder last season, Romine put together a slash line of .268/.324/.402 with 31 doubles, 10 home runs and 69 RBIs. That’s a fine output no doubt, but fatigue seemed to set in toward the end of year, and understandably so.
For the first time in his young career, Romine was free of Jesus Montero, with whom he had split backstopping duties over the first two season of his career. After catching 80 games in 2009 with High-A Tampa, Romine’s workload exploded. Including the playoffs and the Arizona Fall League, he caught 120 games.
With the all the extra innings behind the plate, one could understand if that’s where he wanted to put the onus for his second-half struggles.
“It falls on me,” he said. “I wasn’t adamant about my lifting program last year, and it kind of kicked my butt toward the end. I wasn’t eating the way I should be eating. I talked to some of the Yankees’ trainers and stuff like that, and I think we’ve got a handle on that.”
For his part, manager Tony Franklin, back for his fifth season with the Thunder, has seen his catcher grow by leaps and bounds since the beginning of 2010.
“I went to our catching instructor (Julio Mosquera) and told him that I thought Romine was doing an excellent job in spring training, and I didn’t even know he was back there (when he caught).
“Generally when your catcher is handling your pitching staff really well, the game is going along at a very smooth pace and it’s up-tempo. That’s a direct result of, probably, your catcher and your pitcher communicating quite well,” Franklin finished.
For the most part, the staff he will work with in 2011 is familiar to Romine; even if he hasn’t shared a team with a pitcher, he’s more than likely caught him extensively in spring training.
The one exception is Steve Garrison, the Hun alumnus and Trenton’s Opening Day starter. Aside from a few games here and there this spring, Romine hasn’t had much work with his new teammate.
That means he’s got to begin establishing a rapport with Garrison, and he’ll do that the best way he knows how.
“Show him you’re hard-working,” Romine explained. “I’m a big guy on blocking balls. If you’re blocking balls with no guys on, you’re framing pitches, you’re talking to him, you’re getting in his head, and they see you doing that, they’re going to be like ‘OK, this guy wants to work with me. You’re going to get that respect. I’m a big respect guy.”
And with the work he puts in, he’ll get that big respect right back.