Nate, with traffic

You might have already seen the story of Dontrelle getting out of some major jams to salvage his outing from a potential mess, but he wasn’t the only pitching escaping disaster on Tuesday. His fellow starting contestant, Nate Robertson, had the bases loaded with nobody out in the in the sixth and ended up with a two-run inning.

It’s impossible to call it stingy work, not with two runs allowed. Compared with his downfall last season, however, it’s progress that shouldn’t go overlook.

After the bases were loaded, Robertson induced three straight ground balls. He barely missed double plays out of the first two, thanks to speed up the line from Cesar Izturis and Endy Chavez. Considering he was pounding hitters with two-seamers because his slider wasn’t working, that’s not bad.

“If I didn’t have my two-seamer,” Robertson said, “I wouldn’t have lasted three innings.”

Then there’s this stat set from last year: Not only did opponents bat .370 (61-for-165) against Robertson with runners in scoring position, but 26 of those hits went for extra bases, including 11 home runs. He also gave up 25 walks in those situations. The total OPS with RISP worked out to 1.116.

“It’s something obviously that’s pretty necessary for him to get out of those type of innings,” manager Jim Leyland acknowledged.

It’s the upshot of the fact that Robertson has had traffic on the bases in each of his first two outings.

“So far, with runners in scoring position in my two outings, I’ve done a pretty good job of damage control and making a pitch. I’ve been known to be that kind of guy in the past. I don’t want to get runners in scoring position with less than two outs. But that was the situation I was in.

“Their runners got on base, obviously, but I thought I made the pitches to get out of the situation. And I was happy with that.”

Opponents batted just .199 with just 13 extra-base hits against Robertson with RISP in 2006, and .266 with 12 hits for extra bases the year before that. By 2007, that rose to .316 with an .852 OPS.

Other notes:

  • Haven’t had a chance to write much on it with so much focus on the starting competition, but Bobby Seay is getting stingy this spring. With two more strikeouts in a 1-2-3 eighth inning Tuesday, he has fanned five batters in his three Spring Training innings, including striking out the side on nine pitches in last Wednesday’s opener. He didn’t throw many breaking balls, which is what Leyland has said he needs to work on to improve against left-handed hitters, but he didn’t need them Tuesday. If he somehow wasn’t one of the four relievers on the staff whose job was set already, he might be now.
  • There were about two dozen Venezuelan fans who drove down from Orlando and brought drums and other musical instruments. They played several times between innings, and it gave the game a winter ball feel. Brandon Inge and Ramon Santiago both said it reminded them of the Dominican League, only quieter.
  • It didn’t get mentioned in the Dontrelle Willis story this evening, but Willis is showing a very good pickoff move. Not only did he nab Abreu to escape the first inning with runners at the corners and a 3-0 count on Magglio Ordonez, but he also arguably had another runner caught earlier in the inning. He didn’t get the call on that one.
  • Following in the footsteps of follow writers Matthew Leach, Jordan Bastian and Bryan Hoch, I’ve started up a Twitter page. I went through today’s game as a tryout to see how it worked out. Check it out during the day if you want and let me know how it works out.


Twitter is an interesting idea, Jason. If you could include comments on odd plays that might not be obvious from the box scores (especially for games that don’t have audio), that would be much appreciated.
I’m glad that Bonderman’s exam went well. It’s early and the pitchers are making progress – I think we’ll have five when the team has to go north, but who knows who they will be. It’s looking like we might have enough to stock a bullpen, as well. Let’s hope there aren’t too many injuries.

Good idea, Matt. That’s one of the things I’m hoping to bring to the Twitter, at least for Spring Training games. Some will be missed, because I’m usually in the clubhouse doing interviews for the final few innings, but let’s see if we can get most of them. This is new for me, so I’m open to ideas.

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