Nate Robertson: throwing sidearm “is a rebirth for my career”

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Nate Robertson averaged 31 starts a year for the Tigers between 2004-2008, but he hasn’t appeared in the majors since 2010. He’s now 35 years-old and he’s fresh off a season where he posted an 8.07 ERA and 20/8 K/BB ratio over 29 innings for two different Triple-A teams. He even threw part of the season for the independent Wichita Wingnuts.

Usually that sort of thing means the end of one’s career or, at the very least, some serious soul-searching about it all. But Robertson is not giving up. He’s here in Rangers camp and, after speaking with him this morning, it’s fair to say that he’s feeling fantastic. The reason, as I mentioned earlier, was that he is a totally different pitcher. He’s now throwing sidearm.

“It’s a rebirth for my career,” Robertson told me. “I’m getting the kind of movement I used to have when I was young but lost when I got hurt.”

Robertson said that, at times, he’s surprised how much movement he gets from dropping down two a three-quarter arm slot. Indeed, it’s a far greater adjustment for him to get a sense of where the increased action will send his pitches than it was to make the actual physical change from going overhand to sidearm.

From a mechanics standpoint Robertson seems like a guy who has been throwing sidearm for his whole career. He’ll still occasionally mix in some overhand stuff, but he’s moving to a point where, he says, he’ll be exclusively throwing from the three-quarters slot. The HardballTalk Scouting Department (i.e. my girlfriend and her iPhone)– took this video of him in the bullpen on Saturday before entering the game against the Diamondbacks. He looks pretty free and easy:

The results, insofar as they matter in spring training, have been good. He’s thrown three innings without allowing a run. And, more importantly, without walking anyone. Not too bad for a guy who literally taught himself how to do this.

I asked him if, since he’s gotten into camp, there was anyone around to help him refine his approach. He said that while there aren’t any sidearmers around, he pointed across the clubhouse to Kenny Rogers and said “he used to throw the ball from all over the damn place” so from a standpoint of changing things up, Rogers has been a valuable resource. Otherwise, Robertson says, he’s still on his own.

My last question to Robertson was how the new delivery has him feeling the next morning. He said it’s amazing how great he feels the day after pitching now compared to when he threw overhand.  I asked him if it would be weird to be one of those guys who transforms from an injured starter to one of those rubber-armed dudes who throw 80 games a year. He smiled from ear to ear and said “That would be it, man. After all of this, that would be the best.”

It’s not at all clear that Robertson will make the Rangers. But if he doesn’t, he’s got things to showcase for other teams in need of a bullpen arm. And even if that doesn’t work out, he’s at least going out fighting, and I get the sense that that’s what most players would want.

Clay Buchholz apologized to the Phillies for getting injured

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MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports that starter Clay Buchholz is at Citizens Bank Park for Wednesday night’s game against the Marlins. The right-hander recently underwent surgery to repair a partial tear of his flexor pronator mass. The timetable for his recovery is three to five months, but most are expecting him to miss the rest of the season since the Phillies aren’t legitimate contenders.

According to Zolecki, Buchholz apologized to GM Matt Klentak “and others” — presumably other front office staff and/or his teammates — for getting injured. Buchholz hopes to return to pitch in September.

It’s saddening to me, and indicative of the general anti-labor culture in sports, that a player feels obligated to apologize for getting injured on the job. Injuries are nothing new for Buchholz, which might have factored into his decision to apologize. Red Sox fans got on his case quite a bit over the years for his propensity to land on the disabled list. But it wasn’t like Buchholz was taking unnecessary risks; he simply did his job, which entails doing a lot of unhealthy movement with his arm. Buchholz owes no one an apology.

Buchholz isn’t the only player to have apologized for getting injured. Outfielder Hideki Matsui apologized to the Yankees in 2006. Starter Masahiro Tanaka apologized in 2014. Twins reliever Glen Perkins apologized last year. Even Madison Bumgarner sort of apologized for suffering injuries riding a dirt bike on an off-day, saying “It’s definitely not the most responsible decision I’ve made.” Because god forbid an athlete has interests and hobbies outside of his vocation.

Players are brought up in a sports culture that allows exorbitantly wealthy owners to bilk the players — laborers — at every possible turn. They’re mostly underpaid and poorly taken care of in the minors. If and when they reach the major leagues, their salaries are intentionally depressed for six years and their service time is toyed with (just ask Kris Bryant). Buchholz endured that and then endured the criticism that comes with having been a hyped prospect who mostly failed to live up to expectations. He’s gone above and beyond what he needed to do to have a successful career as a professional baseball player, even if it wasn’t as much as fans or front office personnel would have liked.

Eric Thames leaves game with apparent injury

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Update (5:22 PM ET): Thames is dealing with left hamstring tightness. Manager Craig Counsell says it’s “not a big deal,” Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

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Brewers first baseman Eric Thames left Wednesday afternoon’s game against the Reds in the top of the eighth inning with an apparent injury. Thames took his position to start the inning, but was replaced by Jesus Aguilar. Thames had flied out weakly to center field to end the previous inning, so perhaps something happened while he ran that out.

The Brewers should provide an update shortly on the exact nature of Thames’ early exit. Needless to say, losing Thames to the disabled list would be a huge blow to the 11-11 Brewers, as he entered Wednesday leading all of baseball in runs (25), home runs (11), slugging percentage (.929), and OPS (1.411). Thames was 1-for-3 with a single, a pair of walks, and two runs scored before leaving.