Nate Robertson

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


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.

Maybe Alcides Escobar shouldn’t bat leadoff

Alcides Escobar
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Alcides Escobar finished with a .292 OBP this year. He came in at .246 in 117 at-bats in August and .257 in 109 at-bats between September and October, so he wasn’t exactly flying high entering the postseason. Still, that didn’t stop Ned Yost from putting him into the leadoff spot for Thursday’s Game 1 against the Astros.

Yost finally did reconsider hitting Escobar first in September. It took Alex Gordon‘s return to health, plus the previous addition of Ben Zobrist to the lineup, in order to make that happen. However, it didn’t stick. Escobar hit ninth in each of his starts from Sept. 7-26, batting .236 with a .276 OBP during that span. With five games left to go, he was suddenly returned to the leadoff spot. The Royals went on to win all five games. Yost saw it as a sign, even though Escobar went 5-for-22 with no walks in those games.

Escobar went 0-for-4 in Thursday’s loss to the Astros. He did not swing at the first pitch of the game, which probably explains the defeat.

It’s been difficult to argue with Yost since last year’s World Series run and this year’s incredible run out of the game. The blind spot with Escobar, though, gets rather infuriating. One can defend hitting him leadoff against the Astros’ lefties. His career OBP against southpaws is .319 (.316 this year). Against righties, he’s the most obvious No. 9 hitter alive, with a career .258/.290/.342 line (.252/.284/.314 this year). He’s not a pace-setter. He’s not a spark plug. He’s a liability.

Astros top Royals in Game 1 of ALDS

Houston Astros' Jose Altuve, left, celebrates with teammate Luis Valbuena after scoring a run during the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

After shutting out the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday, the Astros beat the Royals 5-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. Road teams are now 4-0 to begin the 2015 postseason.

The Astros grabbed an early 3-0 lead against Yordano Ventura through two innings. Chris Young took over for the Royals after a 47-minute rain delay and was very effective for the most part, allowing just a solo homer to George Springer over four innings while striking out seven batters. Colby Rasmus, who homered in the Wild Card game, took Ryan Madson deep in the eighth inning to give the Astros’ bullpen some extra breathing room.

Collin McHugh stayed in after the rain delay and ended up tossing six innings while allowing just four hits and one walk. Kendrys Morales did all the damage against him with a pair of solo homers. He’s the first Royals player to hit two home runs in a postseason game since George Brett in the 1985 ALCS.

The Royals’ offense showed some signs of life in the bottom of the eighth inning with back-to-back two-out hits against Will Harris, but Oliver Perez got Eric Hosmer to foul out to end the threat. Luke Gregerson tossed a scoreless ninth inning to finish off the victory.

Consistent with their identity during the regular season, the Astros won despite striking out 14 times. The same goes for the Royals, as they struck out just four times. Despite putting the ball into play more often, the Kansas City lineup wasn’t able to muster anything aside from the home runs by Morales.

Game 2 of the ALDS will begin Friday at 3:45 p.m. ET. Scott Kazmir will pitch for the Astros and Johnny Cueto will get the ball for the Royals.

George Springer homers to extend Astros’ lead over Royals

Houston Astros' George Springer (4) celebrates with teammates after scoring a run in the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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After Kendrys Morales brought the Royals within one run in the bottom of the fourth inning with his second solo home run of the game, George Springer took Chris Young deep in the top of the fifth to extend the Astros’ lead to 4-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS.

According to Statcast, the ball traveled an estimated 422 feet and left Springer’s bat at 109 mph. Royals fans are happy it was just a solo home run. It could have been worse, as Jose Altuve singled to lead off the fifth inning before being thrown out trying to steal second base during Springer’s at-bat.

The Royals will try to answer as we move to the bottom of the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium.