David Robertson got the win yesterday against the Red Sox, pitching 1.2 innings after coming on with two on and one out in the 5th inning. The excellent Chad Jennings caught up with him after the game to discuss his role on the club:
In the Yankees bullpen, Dave Robertson is kind of the fourth musketeer. He’s not the closer, he’s not the setup man, and he’s not Joba Chamberlain. That leaves him decidedly hidden in the shadows of bigger names and bolder personalities.
“I like where I’m at,” Robertson said. “I kind of slide under the radar. Just leave me there.”
Mariano Rivera and Rafael Soriano came into the season with clearly defined eighth- and ninth-inning roles, and Chamberlain has taken over the seventh. Boone Logan is the lefty, Bartolo Colon is the long man and Ayala is handling mop-up duty. That leaves Robertson.
He seems to be a kind of fire extinguisher. He’s the guy who gets ready in the middle of an inning, asked to settle a problem before it becomes a four-alarm disaster. That’s what he did today, stranding two runners in the fifth inning and setting the tone for a shutdown performance from the relievers who followed.
“It seems like that’s been my situation over the past year and a half,” Robertson said. “Since 2009 and 2010 that’s kind of where I’ve come in. I wouldn’t say I’ve gotten used to it, but I’m prepared to go into it.”
I like Robertson in the fireman role, as his penchant for walking batters is offset by his great strikeout rate. His ability to avoid contact makes him an ideal choice to enter with runners on, and having 3 other strong relievers in the bullpen allows Joe Girardi to utilize Robertson earlier in games than he had been used in the past, so as to put out fires that are started by ineffective starting pitching.
One issue that comes with being in the fireman role is that Robertson is likely to warm up often, as the situation would call for him to get ready every time a starter begins tiring and gets into trouble in the middle innings of a close game. This will sometimes lead to a “dry-hump” for Robertson, which is particularly inartful baseball parlance used to describe a pitcher warming up but failing to pitch in the game. In situations where the current pitcher finds a way out of the jam before Robertson is deemed necessary, David will sit down and may not be used. As the RiverAveBlues D-Rob Dry-Hump Counter states, Robertson has warmed in all 8 games thus far this season, but has only pitched in 4.
Now, dry-humps are not a negative unto themselves, but they do add to the workload of a pitcher without showing up on the back of his baseball card. The manager needs to be judicious in his apportioning of workloads to relief pitchers, and considering the number of times a pitcher has warmed up is an overlooked but important element of that task. Thankfully, Joe Girardi does an excellent job managing relief workloads, and as Marc Carig told us last season, he keeps track of dry-humps for all of his pitchers:
For each Yankees reliever there exists a corresponding index card that shows their workload over the last seven days, including the times they get warm in the bullpen without coming into games.
When a pitcher exceeds what Joe Girardi deems is an unacceptable workload, next to their name, he writes a red star. He’s done this since his stint as the manager of the Marlins, and he does it before each game now.
Girardi has done a very good job at managing bullpen workloads over his 3 seasons as Yankees manager, and I think the above excerpt indicates the level of detail and thought that he puts into the task. While the number of times that Robertson warms is something that we should definitely keep an eye on, I would not get too worked up about it at this point. With Girardi at the helm, Robertson should be in good hands.
(Photo from Getty, via Daylife.com)
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