D-Rob: I want to prove I can close
June, 1, 2014
By Wallace Matthews | ESPNNewYork.com
NEW YORK -- You would think a pitcher who has been as successful as David Robertson has been as both a setup man and, until the last 10 days, a closer would not feel the need to lay his credentials out to anyone.
But after a day -- actually, 2/3 of an inning -- like Robertson had in Sunday's 7-2 loss to the Twins, the successor to Mariano Rivera said this: "I’m itching to get back out there. I want to prove that I can still do this."
It may seem hard to believe after Robertson's outing -- a leadoff, first-pitch home run by Josh Willingham that tied the game and three walks and an RBI double that lost it and ballooned his ERA from 2.08 to 4.50 -- but that really shouldn't even be open to question.
Certainly, Robertson can close. He was 9-for-9 before blowing his first save on a walk-off home run by the White Sox's Adam Dunn on May 23 in Chicago. He successfully nailed down his next four appearances, including one the very next night, before Sunday's implosion.
Still, Robertson felt the need to re-establish his credentials, which is understandable when you are trying to follow the greatest closer of all time.
Mariano, of course, blew many games, even some very big ones, like the seventh game of the 2001 World Series. But his ability to do the job was never in question from anyone, least of all himself.
Like Mo, Robertson calmly and patiently answered every question put to him at his locker after the game. He was unsparingly candid in his self-assessment. But that one moment of self-doubt made you wonder if he was thinking back to 2012, when he seemingly had inherited the closer's job after Mariano tore up his knee in Kansas City only to lose it to Rafael Soriano after one blown save and a couple of weeks on the DL with an oblique injury. Right across the clubhouse, young Dellin Betances has been showing the kind of stuff and poise teams pray for in a closer. Could Robertson be hearing the footsteps?
"I’ve got to put it behind me," Robertson said. "We’ve got another game tomorrow, and if I don’t get a chance tomorrow, hopefully I’ll get a chance the next day. A bad day’s a bad day. There’s going to be a good day coming up next."
Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesDavid Robertson blew his second save of the season in the Yankees' 7-2 loss against the Twins.
A closer has to have that mentality. A short memory is his greatest asset, even greater than a rubber arm or a 95 mph fastball.
"What bothered me most of all was the walks," he said. "I still had a chance to get out of the inning and keep it a tied ballgame. In my head, I was thinking I’m a pitch away. If I can get a ground ball here, a ground ball there, I can keep it tied. I just couldn’t make any quality pitches."
Robertson left the mound to boos from the crowd of 42,449 when he was lifted for Matt Daley with two outs and the bases loaded.
"That’s Yankee fans. Sometimes you get it when you don’t do well here," Robertson said. "I did hear some cheers, the ‘Hey, get 'em next time.’ I wasn’t hurt by the fans or anything. Believe me, they’re behind you when you’re winning, and that’s great."
Presumably, they haven't lost any faith in Robertson's ability to close. The question is, has Robertson's faith in himself been shaken?