PRO BASEBALL

RailCats find hitter in converted pitcher Josh Romanski

2014-06-06T20:00:00Z 2014-06-06T23:20:11Z RailCats find hitter in converted pitcher Josh RomanskiHillary Smith hillary.smith@nwi.com, (219) 933-3233 nwitimes.com

GARY | Josh Romanski's pitching career took him as high as Triple-A baseball and to a 3.63 ERA in four years of affiliated baseball.

He was a starter with the New York Yankees organization in 2010 and turned into a reliever by the time he played in Birmingham in the White Sox farm system last season.

Now, he's considered a rookie again.

Though Romanski was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers and played as an outfielder for four games in 2008, the bulk of his career is as a pitcher.

Romanski is back in the outfield for the RailCats, a position he played in college during his pitching off days. Thanks to American Association rules on classification, because only four games of his affiliated time was in the outfield, he's one of 13 rookies on the RailCats roster.

"The league implemented a rule years ago because guys had made the position change, and usually it's the other way around, a guy who converts to a pitcher, but when the Northern League came into play it was more or less the other way," RailCats manager Greg Tagert said. "There is a format that he's listed officially as an LS-whatever it might be as a pitcher and a rookie as a hitter. If he's used as a pitcher, and it won't affect us because we don't have too many, but if you're at the max at a classification and you tried to use him as a pitcher, you can't do it. Immediately if he came into the game as a pitcher, he'd be classified as whatever it is, LS-4 I believe."

The RailCats have no plans right now to use him as a pitcher.

Heading into Friday's game against Sioux Falls, Romanski was hitting .269 for the RailCats, having played in all 20 games. He hit a double in the second inning Friday to give the 'Cats a 1-0 lead.

"I contacted some affiliated teams and had some workouts and they said 'go play independent ball and we'll watch your progress and see how it goes and see if something opens up,'" Romanski said. "I got a hold of Skip through Ryan Babineau and it seemed like a really good fit and now I'm here and we're winning ballgames so right now it's going well."

Romanski said he takes some ribbing from the clubhouse for being called a rookie on the roster, but knows his affiliated experience makes him vital to the makeup of the locker room. He's played at every level from Low-A to Triple-A with the White Sox and Yankees.

"I feel like I bring just experience in the game of baseball to the club," Romanski said. "With a lot of young players here, I hope they can look at me and see me act like a professional and I hope it can rub off on some other guys."

The California native played for the United States in the 2007 Pan American games, hitting and pitching. While at the University of San Diego, he was named all-conference three years and was the West Coast Conference Freshman of the Year in 2006.

"From the scouting standpoint, he was a left-handed arm and a hard thrower as a pitcher, I think the opportunity for him to reach the big leagues was as a pitcher," Tagert said. "I think now he was looking for the best opportunity to showcase his ability as a hitter. He truly believes he can make this change not only here with the RailCats but to make this change to progress to where he didn't get to be as a pitcher."

With the RailCats sitting in first place in the American Association's Central Division, Romanski said he's less concerned about his individual stats.

"I reached out to the teams I worked out with and I told them 'hey, I'll be playing in Gary this year, if you guys need anything feel free to look me up,'" Romanski said. "For me, it's not about that. For me, I'm here to help the RailCats win baseball games right now."

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