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Memphis' Romak smacks three homers

Cardinals outfielder steals spotlight from top prospect Taveras
April 8, 2013

On a night when most Memphis fans turned up at the ballpark hoping to witness the Triple-A debut of top Cardinals prospect Oscar Taveras, it was an outfielder with considerably less buzz that stole the limelight.

Jamie Romak blasted a career-high three homers and recorded six RBIs to lead the Triple-A Redbirds in an 18-2 rout of the visiting New Orleans Zephyrs.

"I think [Taveras] will be OK with that," Romak joked. "He gets the attention most nights and it's well deserved. He's an unbelievable talent and he adds to what I think is already a deep lineup. It's a cool night for everybody. We all had a part in it, and we'll all share in this together.

"I've had a couple two-homer games before, but never three. It's pretty special ... It hasn't really sunk in yet, but any time your team puts up 18 runs it's a lot of fun."

Romak drilled the first pitch he saw from Elih Villanueva more than 400 feet to center field in the second inning and he pulled Doug Mathis' 2-1 offering to left for a two-run homer with two outs in the sixth.

"I watched how he pitched the guys ahead of me and I put a pretty good swing on a good pitch right away, a fastball middle in over the plate," Romak said of his first longball of the year.

"[In the sixth,] Mathis threw a first-pitch fastball by me. It was up and out over the plate, but he was quick to the plate and I wasn't quite ready. I made an adjustment to get ready earlier. He threw me a 2-1 fastball middle-in and that time I was ready."

Then in the seventh, Romak victimized A.J. Battisto, lofting his 1-2 pitch deep down the third-base line to plate Kolten Wong and Chad Huffman and extend the Redbirds' lead to 11-2.

"[Battisto] started me with breaking balls away," Romak explained. "He threw a fastball in for a strike and he came back with the same pitch. With runners in scoring position in that situation, I was just looking to put it in play and get them in.

"The first and second [homers] were no doubters, but the last one I hit really, really low in the gap. Generally speaking, you don't hit no-doubters into the gap."

The 6-foot-3 outfielder had a chance to make his historic night even more memorable when he came to the plate with a runner on first base and two outs in the eighth, but he struck out against southpaw Scott Maine on three pitches.

The punchout did nothing to take the shine off Romak's joy, though. He planned to enjoy the milestone for the rest of the evening then get back to work in the cage Tuesday.

The 27-year-old's last multi-homer game was on July 30, 2011, when he hit two solo longballs for  Double-A Northwest Arkansas in an 11-5 loss to Springfield.

"One night doesn't mean you've figured everything out, but I'm happy," he said. "I'm just trying to be a productive player at this level."

Selected by the Braves in the fourth round of the 2003 Draft out of A.B. Lucas Secondary School in London, Ontario, Romak is now in his 11th year of pro ball.

He's collected more than 3,000 at-bats over almost 900 Minor League games for four franchises without ever getting called up to the Majors, but he's hoping a big year in the Pacific Coast League will change all that.

Romak began 2012 with Triple-A Omaha in the Royals system before getting picked up by the Cardinals, who assigned him to Memphis. In 42 games between the two teams, Romak hit .247 with without a homer and 14 RBIs. That led to Romak being sent down to Springfield where he hit 10 homers and recorded 56 RBIs in 64 contests.

"I never got the hump off my back," Romak said about his home run drought to start 2012. "[The Cardinals] go over the game reports, they know what's going on. But the name of the game at this level is consistency. You have to go out there for five months of the season and prove you're a competitive, winning player."

On Monday, shortstop Vance Albitz went 3-for-5 with two doubles, three RBIs and two runs scored and second baseman Kolten Wong --'s No. 79 prospect -- recorded three hits, three runs and an RBI out of the No. 2 spot.

Baseball's No. 3 overall prospect Taveras -- who had been home in the Dominican Republic on family leave to start the year -- entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the eighth. He finished 1-for-2 with an RBI single and a run scored.

Memphis starter Tyler Lyons (1-0) picked up the win, yielding two runs on seven hits while striking out three batters over seven frames.

Villanueva (0-1) took the loss after allowing seven runs on eight hits and a walk over 4 2/3 innings.

Ashley Marshall is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter @AshMarshallMLB.