Andrew Romine, left, will hit only from the left side of the plate this season. (Rick Yeatts / Getty Images )
PHOENIX — — Andrew Romine was raised by his father, Kevin, a former Boston Red Sox outfielder, to be a switch-hitter. The thinking was that it would improve his chances of reaching the big leagues.
But as Andrew rose through the Angels' system, reaching triple A in 2011, the ability to switch-hit felt more like an albatross than an asset. So he gave it up last season at Salt Lake and began hitting only from the left side, a move Romine, 27, believes will enhance his chances of winning a utility infield job this spring.
"I see the benefits of switch-hitting, but I also see the benefits of raising my batting average," said Romine, who doubled and struck out in Monday's 13-5 exhibition loss to the Oakland Athletics in Phoenix Municipal Stadium.
"I needed that extra push to get myself out of triple A. I was a .280 hitter. I didn't want to end my career and look back and say, 'Gosh, I wish I would have tried hitting left-handed.' "
Looking at Romine's statistics, the results seem negligible — he went from a .281 hitter with a .363 on-base percentage and .346 slugging percentage in 2011 to a .285 hitter with a .336 OBP and .390 slugging in 2012. But the reduction in stress was immeasurable.
"There were days a lefty was throwing and my right-handed swing wasn't there, but I had no choice — I had to hit right-handed," said Romine, a former Trabuco Hills High and Arizona State standout whose brother Austin is a catcher for the New York Yankees.
"A lot of times I felt overpowered from the right side and couldn't put a good swing on it. I was more comfortable hitting left-handed and wanted to give myself a better chance. There's no use fighting myself when I could give myself peace of mind hitting left-handed."
Romine's bat is not the reason he is the leading candidate to replace utility man Maicer Izturis, who signed a three-year, $10-million deal with Toronto. His superb defense, especially at shortstop, and ability to bunt and run give him an edge over Tommy Field, Brendan Harris, Luis Rodriguez and Luis Jimenez.
Romine also has a good feel for the demands of the job, having played spent four stints with the Angels last season and absorbed all the knowledge he could from Izturis, one of the best utility infielders in baseball.
"I tailed him, studied what he did, picked his brain — mentally, he was locked in," Romine said. "The biggest thing is to be ready at any time. You could pinch-hit in the first inning or have to drop a bunt to move runners into scoring position in the ninth. Maicer was never caught off guard."
Hiroyuki Kobayashi showed a decent split-fingered fastball in camp, striking out two Sunday against the Chicago Cubs. But he didn't show enough of a fastball to stick with the Angels, who released the Japanese right-hander on Monday.
Scioscia said Kobayashi, 34, would have to boost his fastball from the area of 86 mph to 90 to 91 mph to be effective.
"I think he had a little more velocity in him, but we haven't seen it yet," Scioscia said Sunday. "Guys who throw the fastball and split are really sensitive to velocity. If they're throwing at 90, 91, 92 mph, that's one thing, but if they're at 86, 87 mph, they're not getting the dimension of that split-finger like they can."