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Romano hopes to beat Father Time

Injuries take time to heal, and that's tough news for Scott Romano, whose career is running out of time.

Romano, a former Hillsborough High star, is 24, which means he's been in minor-league baseball for 7 years.

He currently plays third base for the Norwich Navigators, Connecticut's Double-A version of the Yankees, and like almost every other season in his career, he's working his way back from an injury, this time a pulled hamstring.

His batting average is .296, but that's only in 98 at-bats because of limited playing time.

"I need to play every day for a while so I can prove I can hit like that over a long period," Romano said. "I need to stay healthy."

The injuries started in his third professional year (1991) when he tore ligaments in his foot and had to sit out half the season.

In 1992, his first season at Fort Lauderdale in the Florida State League, he dislocated his shoulder and had to sit out another half year.

He was sent down to the lower Class A in 1993, but moved back in 1994 to Tampa's FSL team, where he finished the season without injury.

And at least for that season, his numbers reflected health: .303 average, 20 homers, 87 RBI.

"I had agents talking to me," Romano said. "I had baseball card companies wanting to take my picture. I really thought I was on my way."

That winter, however, the Yankees sent him to Australia to work out in their professional leagues, and, wouldn't you know it, a fastball cracked his wrist just weeks before the Yankees' spring training.

Once again, Romano was watching instead of playing.

"I'll tell ya what, you can work hard to gain a lot of respect," he said. "But then you can lose it real quick."

He had to wait for his broken wrist to heal and then he had to get back in the swing of things real quick.

It didn't happen. He struggled through 1995 with a .244 average.

And now the hamstring pull.

"He's got a month-and-a-half to show he can hit for a high average," Navigators manager Jim Essian said. "If he does have a great ending to the season then who knows what could happen with him. But right now, I'd have to say that time is running out on Scott."

Romano hears the ticking.

"I know my bat has got to do the talking for me," he said. "I just hope it starts talking loud and quick."

If it doesn't work out with the Yankees, Romano still holds on to hope with another club, especially with the blossoms of expansion.

"I've played with plenty of guys who have made it to the majors, and in a lot of cases I feel I'm as good as them," Romano said. "I know what it takes and I know I have the physical tools.

"I just need to stay healthy."