The right-handed closer, who signed a four-year, $46 million contract this offseason, showed exactly why he commanded the big bucks by striking out the side to earn his first save with the White Sox and finish off his team’s first victory of the season after four defeats.
Three Minnesota Twins up, three Minnesota Twins down, all by strikeout and with a dazzling array of pitches. The White Sox rallied for a 5-4 victory.
It was just one outing, but the White Sox haven’t seen something that spectacularly dominant from a closer in years, perhaps since Bobby Jenks was at his peak while closing out victories for the White Sox nearly a decade ago.
“Unbelievable,” White Sox starter Jeff Samardzija said. “He’s sharp. I chalk it up to how flexible he is. He gets down that mound. His stuff’s so late. His cutter moves late, his curveball moves late and as a starter, I can’t think of a better thing to have than a shutdown closer.”
Robertson never pretended that his spring was a thing of beauty. But he warned everybody that preparation games weren’t anything like the real thing.
With a proven track record, the White Sox let Robertson prepare his own way, which meant limited game action compared to other relievers. But when Robertson admitted to a sore arm at one point, there were some uneasy times.
The good news was that the injury wasn’t deemed serious and indications were that it didn’t even come from throwing, but was something that happened away from the field.
Back on track and using all of his pitches, the adrenaline of his first White Sox closing situation seemed to be just the thing Robertson needed.
“Yeah, it’s definitely a different feel,” Robertson said of the late-game excitement. “I’m here to protect the lead and finish off ballgames. It’s the first time we’ve had a lead in the ninth and I definitely had some adrenaline going. We want to give the fans reason to come out here and watch us, so I wanted to help us get the win.”
Manager Robin Ventura has watched Robertson do similar things from the opposing side. Now he gets to watch Robertson close for him, giving him a luxury he didn’t have last year: A healthy closer he can believe in.
“I think there is some adrenaline with coming in the ninth inning,” Ventura said. “That’s the best inning he’s had, even in spring training of just stuff and a curveball. He hadn’t really worked on his curveball as much, or showed it off as much in the spring. It’s a devastating pitch. It’s good to see.”
Everybody knows Robertson has these kinds of results in him. You don’t take over for somebody like Mariano Rivera in New York and save 39 games if you don’t have a little bit of savvy in you.
He won’t say his curveball is impossible to hit, but when he’s on his game, as he was Saturday, he likes his chances to get the final three outs.
“It’s definitely not impossible; I’ve seen them turn it around before,” Robertson said. “I was feeling really good. We finally had a lead and a chance to get in the win column and I wasn’t going to let it slip away.”