Friday, March 12, 2010

Robertson of Old Would Be Infinite Help to Tigers

If Nate Robertson were a right-handed pitcher, he'd be as expendable as a finished bag of potato chips.

Robertson ought to thank the right-minded God who made him a lefty, because that's what's keeping him in the big leagues right now.

The Tigers say that, if worse comes to worse, they'd be happy to venture north with five righties in their starting rotation---if they are the five best, most capable starters.

That's a bunch of bull excrement.

There isn't a team in the big leagues that doesn't want at least one southpaw starting every five days, with most lineups featuring a couple of dangerous left-handed bats, or more.

The Tigers play the Minnesota Twins ad nauseam, and the Twins swing left more than MSNBC.

Other teams in the Central Division can trot out their share of lefty bats---all except the Tigers, that is, Johnny Damon notwithstanding.

Robertson, 32, has a lot of bulldog in him and I like that. He just hasn't been healthy as of late. And where have you heard that before, when it comes to Tigers pitchers?

There was a time last season, though brief, when I thought Robertson's career might be over. His pitching performances as he struggled to come back from shoulder troubles were frightfully below average. His pitches were flat, his command almost non-existent.

But then in the final third of the 2009 season, Robertson got better. And he got more fearless. Robertson's at his best when he seizes the inside of the plate against lefties, claiming it as his own. He's downright nasty if he's not afraid to pitch the lefties inside and tie them into knots.

His appearances in 2010's spring training have mostly been impressive, though you never can tell what you're going to get until the games start for real in April.

The Tigers, publicly, would have us believe that they can take it or leave it when it comes to a dependable lefty in the rotation. Privately, I suspect the feeling is different. It ought to be.

The Tigers' chances of making noise this year are much better if Nate Robertson is taking his turn every fifth day, giving the team 180-200 innings and lasting into the sixth inning and beyond.

Robertson doesn't have ace stuff, but he doesn't have to be the ace. He only needs to navigate through those dangerous left-handed hitters two or three times a game, then turn it over to one of the multitude of southpaws the Tigers figure to have in the bullpen.

Robertson, like Jeremy Bonderman and Brandon Inge, is one of the few guys left over from that horrific 43-119 team of 2003. Nate's been through a lot as a Tiger, as Bondo and Inge have. He's played in big games, he's struggled to come back from injury. He's been reliable, he's been a big, fat question mark.

Robertson, when healthy and confident and attacking the plate, is as tough a son-of-a-bitch as any lefthander in baseball.

And the Tigers would accept five righties in the rotation?