Former Tide Star In World Series
Since his major league debut with the New York Yankees on June 29, 2008, former Alabama pitcher David Robertson has displayed command of his pitches along with the requisite demeanor befitting a confident bullpen pitcher earning respect from teammates and management.
None other than one of the best relievers ever in the history of major league baseball, Mariano Rivera, sang his praises prior to the season in spring training. "I like his attitude. David Robertson is a kid that no matter what you put him in to do as long as he stays in the big leagues. He has big league stuff," said Yankees ace Rivera. "He's young but he has some big league stuff. The thing that I like about him is his attitude. His attitude is tremendous. He'll get the ball anytime. You don't hear him complaining. If he isn't pitching then he isn't pitching. That's the attitude that a rookie has to have. If they don't pitch him well then he will wait for the opportunity to pitch and then do what he has to do. For me that's a lot. He has what it takes to pitch in the big leagues and be successful in the big leagues. He has a curve, fastball and a cutter. With those pitches you're pretty much in the bullpen. You're good."
Robertson's grip and movement of his cutter is similar to Rivera's with exceptions. "His is a lot better and he knows exactly when it's going to do it every time where as mine does it sometimes not all the time," noted the eager pupil Robertson.
One pitch in particular caught the eye of the New York Yankee brass causing them to sign the 2-year Crimson Tide performer in August of 2006. "We are excited about David's potential and his ability to have an impact on our win column in the '09 season," proclaimed New York Yankee General Manager Brian Cashman. "He has a tremendous curve ball and it's a great weapon."
"He goes after hitters. He has a nice cutter and a nice breaking pitch. He was big for us last year. We were definitely searching and trying to find capable arms out there in the bullpen," replied veteran centerfielder Johnny Damon. "When he came up he did well. He never got flustered. He has great location with his fastball and he throws harder than he looks."
New York Yankee pitcher Joba Chamberlain has also been impressed by the former Paul W. Bryant High School 2004 graduate. "He climbed the ladder last year and came into the big leagues and proved he could be up here. He threw two or three pitches for strikes. Out of the bullpen if you've got two good pitches it's great which he does. He is a real big asset to this team," said the former University of Nebraska Cornhusker whose team competed against Robertson's Crimson Tide in a weekend series in Lincoln.
"He just needs to be more consistent because he's going to be in situations where the game is going to be close and he needs to get a couple of hitters or he may have to go an inning or two. You have to be more consistent out of the bullpen because it's the most underrated aspect of baseball are those guys like Dave," said Chamberlain about his fellow 2006 MLB signee. "They can make or break the game. Either you keep them in the game and score some more runs to get back in the game or the ball is given to him and he has to keep us in the game. It's a very underestimated role in baseball."
"He's got the talent. He's got tools. He's got everything he needs to be a major league pitcher," commented former New York Yankee and American League Cy Young Award recipient Ron Guidry. The right-handed Robertson led the team with a 12.98 strikeouts per nine innings 2009 regular season average.
"David moved very quickly through our organization last year and did a pretty good job for us. For a young man for where he started to where he ended up is pretty good," said New York Yankees Manager Joe Girardi about the former Alabama All-America. "For David it's pounding the zone with his natural cutter and he's got a very good curve ball. He's developing his change up a little bit but he's obviously in the mix here. We liked what we saw last year and there's competition. It's healthy competition. We'll continue to keep a close eye on him," said the second year manager about Robertson's effectiveness.
His 2009 regular season stats include 45 appearances pitching 43 2/3 innings with a 2-1 record and a 3.30 ERA along with 63 strikeouts. The 5-11, 190 pound Robertson allowed only 36 hits and 23 walks producing 16 earned runs while limiting AL hitters to a paltry .216 batting average. "He's got a deceiving fastball that up plays a lot harder than it actually is. It's got some good late life to it and his curve ball is an above average major league curve ball," said Dave Eiland, New York Yankee pitching coach. "You have to see the consistent command of both. As soon as he gets consistent with both, then he's going to be a quality big league pitcher."
Playing in the media capital of the world, Robertson refrains from reading or listening to accounts of his exploits preferring to "keep my head clear of any distractions". Maybe his even keeled personality is the perfect fit for a city hell bent on perpetual motion. "It's great. He's kind of a laid back guy," stated Eiland about the calm natured Robertson. "Nothing riles him or gets him too excited so he has a perfect temperament for it and that shows when he goes out there on a daily basis." His repertoire of pitches includes a fastball with a slight cut, spiked curveball and a changeup.
A late season injury required Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. James Andrews to diagnose the tightness in Robertson's right elbow at his Pensacola office in September. The recommended rest has not impeded his ability to perform exceptionally for the Bronx Bombers during the playoffs thus far.
The 24 year old has shown poise beyond his years. Appearing in Game 2 of the American League Divisional Series game against the Minnesota Twins with two men on and no outs, Robertson allowed a single loading the bases in the 11th inning. He retired the next three batters setting up teammate Mark Teixeira's walk-off game winning home run and Robertson's first playoff victory.
His flair for the dramatic endings continued just eight days later in Game 2 of the ALCS against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Staving off two men he allowed on base with one out, Robertson retired the side forcing two infield grounders. He recorded his second playoff victory as the AL Eastern Division Champions won the game in the bottom of the 13th inning.
Earning playoff MVP honors pitching in the Cape Cod League before he signed with the New York Yankees was not the only prize he commandeered during the summer of 2006. Married in January '09 after meeting his fiancée, Erin from Boston, his courtship resembled a reliever's approach. The initial late night encounter produced a telephone number. He called the next day and "we just hit it off from there" as he described the instantaneous bonding.
He is the fifth former Crimson Tide baseball player to wear the pinstripes joining Joe Sewell, Ken Sears, Butch Hobson and most recently Andy Phillips. Though most youngsters dream of being part of baseball's most storied franchise, Robertson was not so inclined. "I didn't really have a team or think about being a major league baseball player when I was growing up. Once I turned pro and signed and started playing it really kicked in. It's just something I really want to do. When I finally made the team I was shell-shocked. I couldn't believe when I got there to see the fans and hear how great they were. Being at a stadium that large and being able to win games and have a good time playing, it was an incredible experience for me. I wouldn't trade it for anything," he said about his Big Apple experience.
So far he has flourished in his projected role of "Being able to come in during tight games and being able to come in innings when the team is getting beat". He understands the relentless mission of a relief pitcher is to hone the location and timing of their throws. "Only thing you can work on is command. Throwing better pitches at better times and making pitches when you need too," Robertson said about his 3rd spring training regiment. Throwing the right pitches has earned him the trust of his teammates and manager. Maybe longtime WFAN's New York Yankee radio reporter Sweeny Murti described Robertson's best asset. "He throws the ball hard and strikes people out." Every pitcher wishes those comments were attached to his name; or, in this case, his star.
Editor's Note: Robertson's first World Series appearance was not so pleasant as the right-hander walked Jason Werth before giving up a two-out single in the eight inning of Game 1 to Raul Ibanez that scored two runs increasing the Phillies margin to 4-0.
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