Results tagged ‘ Nate Robertson ’

Spring trade? Possible, but not quite likely

The Tigers could have spare players to trade this spring — if a lot of things go right.

If Dontrelle Willis rebounds from disastrous season, when he struggled mightily to find the strike zone, and Nate Robertson’s new shape allows him to regain his slider, the Tigers could have six solid candidates at starting pitcher.

willis.jpgThose scenarios could facilitate a trade. To call it likely, however, is to think everything will go right. A best-wish plan might be more appropriate. And that’s before finances really come into consideration.

The Tigers thought enough of their chances of getting some production out of Willis and/or Robertson that they left the fifth spot in the rotation open for them to compete with swingman Zach Miner. But they wanted to protect themselves enough that they traded talented young outfielder Matt Joyce to Tampa Bay for Edwin Jackson.

And while Willis and Robertson have prompted encouragement leading into Spring Training, it hasn’t progressed to anywhere near an expectation yet.

“I certainly don’t want to sound like Dontrelle Willis and Nate Robertson are rookies,” manager Jim Leyland said Thursday. “They’ve establshed some things in their careers. I don’t want to slight that or make light of that. If you could get those two guys back to what they really are, you’d have six starters. But we don’t know. We don’t know for sure.

“I have the utmost respect for both of those guys. That’s one of my prayers, that one of those guys — at least one of them — gets back to form. That could be a big bonus for us. But is it going to happen? I don’t know. That’s why we’re just going to let things unfold.”

If only one gets back to form, there’s no trade. If both get back to form, there’s the chance for a trade. But the other obstacle that comes into play is financial. Both Willis and Robertson are under contract through 2010 — Robertson for $17 million, Willis for $22 million. Even with baseball’s need for strong starting pitching, those are difficult salaries to move in this economy. Will a solid spring training prove enough of an incentive for a team to take one on? Will a merely encouraging spring training? Will one starter need to pitch in relief in some regular-season games to show he’s back for another team to take him on?

Other starters could be on the market. As one example, the Giants have Jonathan Sanchez and Noah Lowry possibly fighting for the same spot. Sanchez, who looked good for the first half last season before falling off, is under one-year contract. Lowry, who won 14 games in 2007 but missed all last year following surgery, makes $4.5 million this year with a $6.5 million club option for 2010.

The Tigers could help facilitate a trade by picking up much of the salary in a deal. But this is a team dealing with payroll considerations, a team that stood its ground on a one-year deal for closer Brandon Lyon rather than matching a two-year offer he had from another club.

Possible? Yes. Likely? Hard to say that.

I think back to 2007, when the Tigers had more starters than starting spots. Chad Durbin, a very good starter for Triple-A Toledo the previous year, was headed for a long relief role once Mike Maroth showed he was healthy. Andrew Miller was going to the minors. Then came Kenny Rogers’ blood vessel constriction and surgery that kept him out until June. When asked if a trade for a starter was possible, president/GM Dave Dombrowski said at the time that teams were calling them about starting pitching.

Durbin stepped into the rotation, held on until Rogers returned. At the same time, Miller was called up and Maroth traded. Durbin went on to make good money and earn a World Series ring with the Phillies last year.

Two words come to mind for likelihoods last year: Armando Galarraga.

Possibilities abound when spring training opens. But seven weeks out before Opening Day, history shows that likelihoods can be deceptive.

Quotes from Nate

Robertson was very reflective about the decision. He said he knew he was going to have “a conversation” with the manager after the Texas outing, but seeing it coming didn’t help much.

“It’s tough, probably the lowest point for me that I’ve had to deal with. I think I’ve kind of bottomed out. But that doesn’t mean I don’t believe that I can come back and be a legit starter for this club.”

On his slider, Robertson said, “Throughout my career and especially when it comes to situational pitching, I’ve always felt like when I’ve had my legit slider, which is my out pitch, I’ve felt like I could get out of anything. And this year, for whatever reason, it’s just been inconsistent, off and on. You can just see that in times when I’ve gone up against a good left-handed bat. It’s been a very, very effective pitch. It’s been a plus pitch. And it’s not a plus pitch right now. It’s inconsistent. When it flattens out, it’s very hittable and it’s cost me in bad situations in a ballgame.”

On the decision to take him out of the rotation: “Skip’s got a job to do, and he’s got to make the decision for this club, and right now you can’t feel good about me going out there after what happened in Texas. I mean, I don’t feel good about me going out there after what happened in Texas. I know I have better stuff than that. If I don’t have anything to throw off of that fastball, then I’m in trouble.”

Robertson also said they would “probably have to make some changes” in his offseason program. It sounded like that could be a combination of working on his mechanics and altering his workout program. The word that Robertson used was “flexibility,” as in he doesn’t have much of it, and it’s affecting his game.

Robertson to bullpen

According to manager Jim Leyland, “Nate is not going out with all his weapons, especially his slider.”

As a result, Robertson is going to work with pitching coach Chuck Hernandez to work on that and move out to the bullpen while he’s doing so.

Asked who will start in Robertson’s old spot next Tuesday, Leyland said, “I have no idea.”

Last Tiger to give up five HRs

Just two Tigers have done it since 1956. Jeff Weaver was the more recent, having given up five Red Sox homers on July 24, 1999 at Tiger Stadium. He left after four innings with nine runs allowed on 10 hits. Don Mossi did it on June 23, 1961 at Cleveland, but he lasted seven innings.

UPDATE @ 9:30pm: Upon further review, Robertson became just the seventh Major League pitcher since 1956 to give up at least five home runs and no singles in a game. Jamie Moyer was the most recent, giving up seven earned runs on six hits in 4 1/3 innings on July 21, 2006 for Seattle at Boston. The list includes former Tiger Denny McLain, who served up five runs on five hits (yup, all solo homers) in three innings for Washington at Oakland on June 16, 1971.

That's a first

According to research on, Nate Robertson is the first Tigers pitcher since at least 1956 (that’s as far back as the search tool goes) to give up at least 11 hits in an outing without giving up an earned run. Only Carlos Silva (8/3/2004 for the Twins) and Curt Schilling (5/6/2000 for Philly) have done it in the Majors since 1999.

For what it’s worth, the record in that span for most hits without an earned run is 13: Scott Sanderson (9/4/84), Tommy John (9/14/83, though he pitched 13 innings to do it), Ross Grimsley (6/18/74) and Mudcat Grant (7/15/64).

Friday: Tigers at Twins

It’s the everyday lineup for the Tigers in the series opener. Look for Gary Sheffield to play the first two games of the series before he gets Sunday off. Brandon Inge will catch again either Saturday or Sunday. There’s a chance that Placido Polanco could play all three games this series, which is a very good testament to how good his back feels right now. It’s having a direct correlation to how he’s performing at the plate.

Anyway, the lineup:

  1. Granderson, CF
  2. Polanco, 2B
  3. Sheffield, DH
  4. Ordonez, RF
  5. Cabrera, 1B
  6. Guillen, 3B
  7. Renteria, SS
  8. Rodriguez, C
  9. Jones, LF

Nate Robertson was running the Metrodome stairs about four hours before game time as part of his post-start routine. He said later he received about 15 text messages after his win last night, and all but two were about his slip and fall.

“He looked like a cow on ice,” manager Jim Leyland said.

Leyland, meanwhile, was talking about concentration every at-bat, specifically with Miguel Cabrera. As good as Cabrera is now, Leyland wants to see what he can do if he bears down every at-bat for a week or so. He used Albert Pujols as an example of talent and steady concentration in the same package.