NEW YORK (AP) — Austin Romine never expected to replace Aroldis Chapman as the Yankees’ closer.
A backup catcher, Romine was leaning on the dugout railing and watching New York get blown out by Boston in Game 3 of the AL Division Series when bench coach Josh Bard walked up to him in the eighth inning.
“Can you throw?” Romine recalled Bard asking.
“I can try,” the seven-year big league veteran replied.
Romine became just the second position player to pitch in postseason history. The 29-year-old right-hander — has he ever been called that before? — allowed Brock Holt’s two-run ninth-inning homer, completing the first-ever postseason cycle. Romine got the last three outs of New York’s 16-1 loss Monday night, the largest margin of defeat for the Yankees in their 396 postseason games.
“No, I didn’t envision myself getting in these playoffs in that role,” said Romine, whose previous playoff experience was one start at catcher plus one inning as a late substitute against Houston in last year’s AL Championship Series.
Luis Severino was chased in the fourth inning with a 3-0 deficit that Lance Lynn and Chad Green quickly allowed to become 10-0. Yankees manager Aaron Boone cycled through Jonathan Holder and Stephen Tarpley.
With New York facing a 2-1 deficit in the best-of-five series, Boone wanted to keep David Robertson, Dellin Betances, Zach Britton and Chapman fresh for Game 4.
“You hate doing something like that,” Boone said.
Infielder Cliff Pennington was the first position player to take the mound in the postseason, entering in the ninth inning of Game 4 of the 2015 AL Championship Series with Toronto trailing Kansas City by 10 runs. He gave up a pair of singles, the second driving in two runs, before an inning-ending flyout in a 14-2 defeat.
Romine had not pitched since 2007, his senior year at El Toro High School in Lake Forest, California. Gary Sanchez said Romine had two pitches: fastball and slower fastball.
With the Yankees trailing by 13 runs, he threw from 64-90 mph in an 18-pitch outing, using a three-quarters delivery and a short windup in which he didn’t lift his hands above his armpits as he rocked and dealt.
“You got to change speeds or they’re going to hit it out,” Romine said.
Romine started Xander Bogaerts with an 80 mph pitch on the low, outside corner for a called strike, then gave up a 111 mph smash to third for a groundout. Rafael Devers grounded out. Fans rose to their feet when he went to a 2-2 count on Ian Kinsler, who walked.
Holt turned on his first pitch, 79 mph at the knees on the inner part of the plate, and pulled it 355 feet just inside the right-field foul pole and over the short porch.
“You get a little antsy when a position player is on the mound,” Holt said. “I scooted up in the box a little bit, and I was going to be swinging at anything and try to hook anything.”
Christian Vazquez followed with a flyout to right.
Romine’s first professional pitching line: one inning, two runs, one hit, one walk.
“I would have liked to have fun with it,” he said, “but really, I was just trying to get out of the inning.”