Austin Romine’s most famous moment at Comerica Park came in 2017, when the catcher and Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera got into a shoving match at home plate that led to a wild, benches-clearing brawl between the Yankees and the Tigers.
After signing a one-year, $4.1 million deal to join Detroit in his first foray into free agency, Romine said Friday there were “no hard feelings” between him and Cabrera, his new Tigers teammate.
“I feel like baseball takes care of itself,’’ Romine said during a conference call. “You have two guys out there protecting their teams. That’s just baseball. It was an unfortunate circumstance, but you move on. I think I’m in a spot now where I’m excited to go to Detroit, and I’m excited to work with one of the best hitters of our generation and hopefully learn from him.”
Romine had spent his entire 12-year professional career with the Yankees until this week. The Yankees decided to go with Kyle Higashioka to back up Gary Sanchez instead of retaining the 31-year-old Romine at a higher price.
Romine has been a respected voice in the clubhouse for much of the past four years, but the incident in Detroit was uncharacteristic.
The tensions began during that Aug. 24 game when Tommy Kahnle threw a pitch behind Cabrera in the sixth inning.
Kahnle was tossed, and then-manager Joe Girardi also was later ejected, arguing against Kahnle being thrown out without a warning after Detroit’s Michael Fulmer drilled Sanchez. Sanchez had homered in three straight games.
Aroldis Chapman came in for Kahnle, and as he warmed up, Cabrera and Romine began jawing. Romine stood and removed his mask, and Cabrera shoved him before the two wrestled each other to the ground. Both players were ejected.
“He asked if I had a problem with him,” Romine said of Cabrera after the game. “I said, ‘This isn’t about you,’ and then he pushed me. I felt like he wanted a confrontation and I tried to defend myself the best I could.”
Cabrera’s version of events differed.]
“First of all, when they threw at me, it was OK,” Cabrera said. “When [Romine] started arguing with the umpire, I said to Romine, ‘Calm down.’ He said, ‘Don’t [expletive] tell me what to do.’ ”
Tempers flared again as two more players were hit later in the game.
Romine’s brother, Andrew, spent four years with the Tigers — including 2017 — so the catcher was familiar with the organization.
“The opportunity definitely stood out for me,” Romine said. “Over the past few years, I’ve tried to put myself in a position where I could get more playing time, and Detroit had that to offer.”