Results tagged ‘ Nate Robertson ’

Tigers sign Nate Robertson to minor-league contract

The last time Nate Robertson was in Tigers camp, he was on the verge of being traded to the Marlins. That was at the end of Spring Training in 2010, which is also the last year Robertson pitched in the Major Leagues.

So maybe it was fitting that word leaked during the Tigers game against the Marlins that Robertson was working out across the street in minor-league camp. He agreed to a minor-league contract last week.

The deal does not include any invite to big league camp. He’s slated to pitch for a spot at Triple-A Toledo.

Robertson lasted pitch in the big leagues in Philadelphia in the summer of 2010, and has been bouncing around trying to get another opportunity since. He spent 2011 in the rotation at Triple-A Tacoma in the Mariners organization, split the 2012 season between the Cubs and Blue Jays systems, then pitched 50 1/3 innings out of the bullpen at Triple-A Round Rock in the Rangers system. He returns back to his roots with the Tigers looking for some left-handed pitching depth in their system.

Robertson is now 36 years old and pitches a little differently. He lowered his arm angle in his delivery before last season to give his pitches more movement and his delivery more deception. He had some respectable numbers in the Pacific Coast League last year, going 4-4 with a 3.04 ERA and allowing 45 hits over 50 1/3 innings. He walked 23, struck out 40 and didn’t allow a single home run. He held left-handed hitters to a .213 average (17-for-80) with eight walks and 23 strikeouts, compared with a .267 (28-for-105) clip against righties.

No idea whether that ratio translates to the big leagues. Even with some uncertainty in the Tigers bullpen, it’s not going to be an immediate issue. The Tigers have their candidates for lefty relief going into the season, with Ian Krol, Phil Coke, Blaine Hardy, Jose Alvarez and Kyle Lobstein competing. Meanwhile, Detroit just optioned Casey Crosby to Toledo, where fellow ex-Tiger Wil Ledezma also just signed.

Robertson looks back on Detroit

robertson.jpgNate Robertson was on the Florida Marlins team bus when he returned a call from a reporter Friday morning. He was heading from the Marlins’ Spring Training home in Jupiter, Fla. up the state to Jacksonville for an exhibition game. From there, they had have another exhibition in Greensboro, North Carolina, then flew to New York for Opening Day against the Mets. Before all that, Robertson had to pack up his things in Lakeland, Fla., his old Spring Training home, drop off his car in Fort Lauderdale, then pitch in Jupiter for the Marlins Thursday.

All the while, there’s a good part of his heart that’s still in Detroit.

“It’s kind of a crazy, abrupt goodbye to Detroit,” Robertson said. “I still have a home there. It’s still home to us, but it’s not home with the Tigers.”

It was his home and his office through the rise of the Tigers from 119 losses in 2003 to perennial contender now. But when the Tigers put Jeremy Bonderman and Dontrelle Willis in their rotation and put Robertson on the trade market, Florida went from being a Spring Training stop to a regular-season job for him.

He’s back with his original organization, seven years after the Marlins traded him to the Tigers on the day after his wedding. But while he’s coming back home, he still feels like he’s leaving home. He knew this was possible well before he arrived at Tigers camp two months ago, but it did little to cushion the shock.

Robertson came to Spring Training with Jeremy Bonderman and Dontrelle Willis as three comeback attempts trying to squeeze into two starting spots. All three not only had injury-shortened seasons in 2009, they battled issues the year before, too. All three, moreover, were under guaranteed contracts for 2010.

In Robertson’s case, he proved that surgeries on his elbow and groin allowed him to regain the flexibility to pitch effectively. It was a bittersweet outcome, but he’s happy for Bonderman and Willis all the same. They pulled for one another all through camp, and Robertson maintained that outlook Friday as he looked in at Tigers camp from the outside. No hard feelings.

“All of us wanted the very best for each other. There was no doubt about it,” Robertson said. “Truth be told, with my situation, I probably pitched myself into this situation. I anticipated from my standpoint. I wanted to see how I felt with the elbow.

“From the get-go I felt really, really good. All spring long, I just consistent threw the ball well. We all put ourselves in a position to start the season out in a rotation. Two of them are with the Tigers, and one is somewhere else. It just happened to be me.”

When the Tigers made the deal last week, manager Jim Leyland said Robertson “probably would’ve not been a happy camper” pitching out of the bullpen, based off his reaction last year. Robertson, by contrast, said he would’ve handled it.

“I think last year when I went through that, it was more the shock of being in [a starting] position for a while,” Robertson said. “I was hoping last year I could have maybe a mulligan and get that shot out of the gate. What was rewarding to me was that I had the surgery and I came back and I got myself back in the rotation at the end of the year in a pennant run.

“If it would’ve happen again this year, I think I would’ve been able to handle it a lot better with the assurance that I could be a guy who could be in that. I don’t think it would’ve been something that would’ve been as frustrating this year. I really had my mind open for anything — maybe being traded, maybe being released, maybe going to the bullpen, maybe starting. I didn’t really worry about a lot of stuff. I think if that decision was made, I would’ve gotten right on board and been positive about it and felt my very best.”

Robertson had been on the Tigers’ roster ever since August 2003, when Detroit called him up to give him a shot in their rotation down the stretch of the worst season loss-wise in American League history. He was one of three Tigers who had been part of the team since then, along with Bonderman and third baseman Brandon Inge. He not only saw the Tigers’ rise from those depths to the American League pennant in three years, he played a big part in it.

“What I feel good about is I was here when it was as bad as baseball gets really, and it turned into a winning organization, a team that now has the expectations to get to the postseason every year,” Robertson said. “When I was here early on, it was like, ‘Gosh, where are we going?’ Mr. [Mike] Ilitch and Dave [Dombrowski] had a plan. It took some time. I was glad I was part of that plan.

“It was a really rewarding moment to celebrate out there on that field when Magglio hit that walkoff and just stand out there and think about three seasons prior, we were fending off the Twins to avoid 120 losses. And there we were, going to the World Series. There was the turmaround, there was the pinnacle, and now the bar has been set for this team to return to the World Series. It’s a pretty cool thing to go through. And they’re set up for a while. There’s a lot of good talent there, from what I see.”

Robertson not only has been a critical part of the Tigers, but also of Detroit. He and his wife moved to suburban Canton, Mich. soon after he joined the organization, and they bought a house shortly after. It’s the only place they’ve known as a family, which now includes their young son Wyatt.

“Not only did I play with the team the last seven-plus seasons, I lived there,” Robertson said. “It’s not just my baseball home. It’s friends and relationships. I’ve had a chance to respond to a lot of the people that have left a message or phone call.

“It was a good run. I had a lot of fun with it, and I grew to really love the city of Detroit and it’s definitely going to remain a big part of me and my family.”

Roster decisions imminent

By this time Wednesday, the Tigers’ 25-man roster should be known. Manager Jim Leyland said Monday afternoon that roster moves Tuesday to whittle the roster down to about 26, including a decision on the final position player and the backup catcher.

“By this time tomorrow, we’ll be down to probably one guy [over the limit],” Leyland said. “I think the picture will be almost totally clear for everybody by tomorrow.”

The one decision that will be left will be in the rotation. That, Leyland said, should be decided Wednesday, or Thursday at the latest. Dontrelle Willis and Jeremy Bonderman both start Tuesday — Willis against the Orioles in Sarasota, Bonderman in a minor league game. Nate Robertson is scheduled to start Thursday against the Braves. You can read into that, I suppose, what that means for Robertson’s chances.

Leyland said Sunday he has in his mind what his roster would be, but that it wouldn’t necessarily be the final roster. Dave Dombrowski has the final say on that. So what follows now is a discussion with Dombrowski, Leyland, the coaching staff and other members of the front office on the baseball side.

The final roster spot is essentially down to Don Kelly or Clete Thomas. The backup catching decision essentially comes down to whether the Tigers want Alex Avila catching a couple times a week in Detroit or every day in Toledo for development’s sake, which would most likely put Robinzon Diaz on the team. The fact that roster decisions are coming Tuesday seemingly indicates the Tigers don’t expect to grab another backup catcher on the waiver wire or in a trade.

Monday: Tigers at Blue Jays

The best-of-7 series reaches Game 5 today, as Nate Robertson and Dontrelle Willis try to continue their strong showing. This is Robertson’s third time facing the Jays this spring, all here in Dunedin, so it’ll be interesting to see how he reacts to some of the hitters.

TIGERS

  1. Jackson, CF
  2. Sizemore, 2B
  3. Ordonez, RF
  4. Inge, 3B
  5. Guillen, DH
  6. Raburn, 1B
  7. Laird, C
  8. Ramirez, LF
  9. Santiago, SS

P: Nate Robertson, Phil Coke, Joel Zumaya, Jose Valverde

BLUE JAYS

  1. Jose Bautista, 3B
  2. Aaron Hill, 2B
  3. Adam Lind, LF
  4. Vernon Wells, CF
  5. Lyle Overbay, 1B
  6. John Buck, C
  7. Randy Ruiz, DH
  8. Travis Snider, RF
  9. Alex Gonzalez, SS

P: Brian Tallet

For those who are interested, this game is on MLB Gameday Audio.

Postgame from Wednesday

While the bulk of the pitching story from Wednesday’s win over the Blue Jays belonged to starter Jeremy Bonderman, two other intriguing situations followed him. First was the first spring outing for Nate Robertson, who had a solid third inning before struggling in the fourth. Next was Ryan Perry, who got an unexpected test and pitched his way out of a jam.

Robertson said he had a mechanical flaw pitching out of the stretch that came up during the fourth, which kept him from stopping the bleeding for a while. Five straight Blue Jays reached base safely on him, leading to two runs as well as a bases-loaded, no-out jam.

“I was yanking [the ball] a little bit,” Robertson said. “Other than that, I felt great. I’ve got to make that adjustment, though, a little bit quicker. And it took me until I got the the strikeout [of Travis Snider] to walk off the mound.”

The strikeout of Snider for the first out ended up being his last pitch, but more directly out of pitch count than who was coming up. Leyland said later that Robertson was three pitches shy of his limit, so he didn’t want to risk pushing him past that in his first outing of the spring to get one more outs when he needed two outs to get out of the inning.

Plus, as Leyland thought about it, he felt it would be a good test for Ryan Perry, who’s vying for setup work in the revamped Tigers bullpen.

“This is a perfect situation for Perry,” Leyland said.

On came Perry, and back in he came to the dugout soon after that with an inning-ending double play grounder. He stayed in to pitch a scoreless fifth.

Other tidbits from Wednesday:

  • Brent Dlugach gave himself a birthday present Wednesday by smacking a solo homer as part of a two-RBI, two-hit day. He had a little help from the wind gusting out, but it was also an opposite-field shot for him that was hit very well regardless.
  • Wilkin Ramirez again showed why he can be an all-around offensive catalyst if he can stick in the big leagues. He helped the Tigers score one of their ninth-inning runs without a ball getting out of the infield. He beat a throw for an infield single, stole second, took third on an error, then scored on another ground ball for an out. “There is no substitute for speed,” Leyland said. “He created a run just with his legs. That’s nice.”
  • Leyland on the comparatively chilly, windy weather in the area Wednesday: “It’s just like Opening Day in Detroit.” The Blue Jays announced the first-pitch temperature as 48 degrees with winds around 25 mph, while weather.com listed the temperature in Dunedin at 52 with 30 mph winds.

Robertson coming off offseason groin surgery

Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski had referenced surgery for Nate Robertson at an offseason radio interview. Couldn’t get it confirmed by Robertson this winter, but he confirmed it on Wednesday. It was a procedure to repair a torn muscle in his left groin, and it was a problem that had bothered him for much of the season’s second half.

Dr. William Meyers, who performed hernia surgery on Magglio Ordonez in 2005, performed this procedure in mid-November. Robertson says he’s fully recovered now and was able to do a relatively normal offseason routine.

Robertson to pedal for a cause tonight

You might remember a story I did last winter on Nate Robertson working out at Detroit Mercy under the watch of their strength and conditioning coordinator, Nick Wilson, who has some Tigers ties. Well, Robertson is helping give back to the school and to charity tonight, when he joins in the Cardio for a Cause fundraiser.

According to a release from the school, a series of 216 participants will pedal for 10 minutes each on a stationary bike, for a total of 36 hours of biking. UDM basketball coach Ray McCallum started it off Wednesday morning. Robertson will end it as the final biker, pedaling from 8:20 to 8:30 p.m. courtside at Calihan Hall while the Titans take on Loyola-Chicago. Robertson is expected to sign some autographs afterwards. Fans at the game can make donations.

Proceeds from the event go to four different causes: UDM’s strength and conditioning program, Children’s Hospital of Michigan, The V Foundation for Cancer Research (that’s the foundation in Jim Valvano’s memory) and the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund.

Tigers fifth starter Phil Coke?

It’s starting to sound more like a possibility now.

One of the questions that came up during the conference call announcing the Jose Valverde deal is how the rest of what was already shaping up to be a deep Tigers bullpen will slot with a closer now on board. If Zumaya’s healthy, Dave Dombrowski pointed out, he has a history as a setup man. Ryan Perry and Zach Miner slot in for the middle innings, and Dombrowski obviously likes the depth with their left-handers.

Which brought him to Coke.

“I think he’ll get the ball with a change to lengthen out in the spring,” Dombrowski said, “and get a chance to compete for the fifth spot.”

With that, another names enters the rotation competition with Armando Galarraga, Nate Robertson, Dontrelle Willis and Eddie Bonine. With the Tigers sounding increasingly confident that Jeremy Bonderman will take the fourth spot in the rotation, it’s looking like a handful of pitchers will compete for one rotation spot.

That should pretty much be the field, because the pitching staff looks pretty much set.

“If we did [make another signing], it would not be a pitcher,” Dombrowski said. “We feel very comfortable with our pitching right now. We have four starters who we think are set.”

Bonine, Robertson flipped in rotation

The Tigers have flipped their rotation for the start of the White Sox series this weekend. Eddie Bonine will start Friday's series opener opposite Freddy Garcia instead of Saturday. Robertson, who was scheduled to start Friday, will get an extra day's rest and start Saturday instead opposite Jake Peavy.

Robertson throws side, good for Sunday

Looks like Nate Robertson is good to go for the Tigers Sunday at the Metrodome. He threw a side session this morning, didn’t show any obvious problems and said afterwards he’s all good.

The Tigers wanted to see Robertson “air it out,” as Jim Leyland said, to see how his injury reacted. That seemed to be the problem with Washburn and his knee, which seemed to hold up fine when he threw on the side but swelled up when he got to game intensity.

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