Andrew Romine and Keith Johnson have a history that stretches far beyond Salt Lake back to when both were in Single A Cedar Rapids five years ago. Romine, the 27-year-old infielder, has learned to value his longtime manager's advice.
The two spent some time during Thursday's batting practice talking about Romine's slow start at the plate since coming back down to Triple A. Johnson, who doesn't lack for talking points, had a surprisingly simple message.
"It was mental approach more than physically changing stuff," Romine said. It wasn't like, 'You need to do this.' He said, 'Stay with your approach. Stay with putting good swing on it, swinging at strikes and working counts.' ... The fact that it paid off today was just kind of coincidence, I guess."
Whether it was that message or something else that clicked with the Bees shortstop, Romine had his best hitting game since returning from the Angels. The highlight was a home run that soared well past the right field fence onto the sidewalk his first dinger of the season.
On Thursday night, the Bees (23-25) came up just short of a comeback against the Memphis Redbirds (24-21). The tying run was on base, the winning run was at the plate. But a flyout ended a ninth-inning rally, giving the Bees a 9-7 loss to wrap up a 4-4 homestand at Spring Mobile Ballpark.
Still, the season is long. And while the team experienced defeat, individual turnarounds like Romine's give the club long-term hope for better results.
Johnson's long history with Romine helps lend him some credibility, but in one way or another, most players on the roster have experienced or are experiencing what Romine is going through.
"When a guy goes up to the big leagues, there's always that mental adjustment when you come back down," Johnson said. "For [Romine], you know you've done this for a long time, you're a major league player, and you've proven that. It's a matter of going out, believing in the things that got you there, and sticking to those things."
Thursday night also saw a big breakout for Trent Oeltjen, the 30-year-old outfielder whose average was hovering around .100 to start the season. He's since pumped up all his numbers, and his power is resurfacing as well: Two homers, one to each side of the diamond, illustrated the Australian still has some pop.
"New team, new place I sort of wanted to impress and turn some heads," he said. "Baseball is the sort of game where you need to relax and allow it to happen, allow your instincts and ability to work."
As Salt Lake gathers back some talent on its roster, the hope is that some of the individual improvements and tweaks will roll into momentum as the team fights to get over .500 this season.
"It's just knowing we aren't a team that is just gonna take it and lay down," Romine said. "Our pitchers know we're gonna fight for them and get them some runs."
Storylines Redbirds 9,Bees 7
R Salt Lake and Memphis combine for 26 hits, including six home runs.
• Trent Oeltjen goes 3-for-4 with two homers
• Andrew Romine goes 3-for-5 with a home run