Call-up to majors does not come
Veterans Robinson, Romine spend all of 2019 season in minor leagues
Shane Robinson often walked slowly through the IronPigs’ clubhouse this season a few hours before game time with a coffee in his hand and wisdom he was willing to share.
It was a ritual, much like the 34-year-old outfielder’s accumulating major-league service time every year since 2011.
The 2019 season was different, however, as Robinson never got the chance to show his value as an extra outfielder and pinch hitter.
Even as the Phillies’ bench produced almost nothing for large chunks of this season, Robinson wandered the same Triple-A clubhouse.
“It would have been nice to have been up there [in Philadelphia], have multiple days off, come in pinch-hit situations and spot starts,” said Robinson, who has 24 career major-league pinch hits. “It probably would have been better on the body, but it didn’t happen.”
In spite of his slow walks around the clubhouse, Robinson this year was always the IronPigs’ fastest runner and best defensive outfielder not named Roman Quinn.
In 2019, the Florida native batted .288 with more walks (39) than strikeouts (34), some pop (seven homers), baserunning skills (eight stolen bases) and twice as many outfield assists (six) as errors.
“It’s disappointing when you feel like you’ve done enough to get a look and you don’t get feedback from anyone on why decisions are made,” Robinson said. “I understand the business side of it. I understand how the game has changed the last few years.”
Robinson, the Cardinals’ fifth-round pick in 2006 with playoff and World Series experience, is not talking about analytics.
It’s more about birth certificates.
The Phillies started this season with a bench of relative youngsters: Aaron Altherr, Nick Williams, Scott Kingery and Andrew Knapp. That foursome entered 2019 with a combined 26 career pinch hits — or two more than Robinson. Or one more than Sean Rodriguez and five fewer than Phil Gosselin.
Gosselin, 30, spent nearly two months with the Phillies before being sent down for the rest of the IronPigs season.
Rodriguez, a former teammate of Phils manager Gabe Kapler, has been up since April 24 despite a 4-for-23 showing as a pinch hitter (two of those hits came in his last three chances).
Meanwhile, Robinson and 33-yearold Andrew Romine, who spent parts of the previous nine seasons in the majors and once played every position in a major-league game, never got a day of service time this season.
It is their misfortune of being majorleague newbies a decade or so ago, when the game was in a different place.
“Funny when I first came up — and I talk with the guys about it all the time — that’s all that was around: veteran guys,” recalled Robinson who made his majorleague debut on May 7, 2009.
“As young guys, you needed to keep your mouth shut, go about your business and hope to stick. I always told myself that if I could get to five years [of major-league service time], I’d be set, protected. All my contracts would be guaranteed out of camp.
“I finally get to five years and baseball completely changed on me. It’s crazy. You think you’d want a veteran guy who knows exactly what he’s doing and what you’re going to get out of him when he steps on the field.
“Do I agree with it? No. Do I understand it? Yes.”
The Phillies have 33 players on their 40-man September roster. Maikel Franco will be added this week. Spots will be left for Quinn, Juan Nicasio and (maybe) Edubray Ramos — all of whom are nursing injuries.
Pitchers Enyel De Los Santos and J.D. Hammer, both of whom struggled after their most-recent demotions to Triple A, don’t appear to be getting promotions.
Neither are Robinson and Romine, who also had to adjust this year to extended playing time in Triple A.
“It’s different playing every single day as a guy who has always been up as a utility guy in the big leagues,” Romine said. “For the last seven, eight years, I’ve gone from getting partial playing time to playing a lot, then sitting on bus rides for a long time.
“It takes a toll on your body when you’re doing it for six months.”
Romine, like Robinson, had a solid Triple-A season.
The California native posted a stats line of .289/.342/.408 with 21 stolen bases, 26 extra-base hits and 53 RBIs in 106 games with the IronPigs.
But, like Robinson, he’ll be a veteran September spectator.