David Robertson: “I’ve been sucking out there”

PHILADELPHIA, PA – MARCH 28: Philadelphia Phillies Pitcher David Robertson (30) delivers a pitch during the game between the Atlanta Braves and the Philadelphia Phillies on March 28, 2019 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, PA.(Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

The Philadelphia Phillies lost a roller-coaster game to the division-rival Washington Nationals Wednesday in about the worst fashion possible. After allowing a leadoff single to Anthony Rendon in the bottom of the ninth, Phillies reliever David Robertson walked three consecutive batters to allow the Nationals to win 9-8.

After the game, Robertson – who signed a two-year/$23 million free-agent contract with the Phillies in January – didn’t mince words.

“I don’t know, I’ve been sucking out there, that’s for sure,” Robertson said of his lack of control Wednesday to the collective media on NBC Sports Philadelphia after the game. “I throw it over the plate, it gets hit. I can’t throw strikes – I’m walking guys and putting guys on, I’m giving them every chance to score runs. I’m pitching like crap and it sucks. I’m very frustrated with myself. I’m itching for another outing and I’m just tired of doing badly out there.”

Robertson pointed out that he hasn’t been sharp in any of his appearances in the 2019 season thus far. The Phillies won the first two games he appeared in, but not because the 33-year-old righty was able to pitch in the manner he’s done for the better part of the last decade.

On Opening Day, the Phillies won 10-4 over the Atlanta Braves, but Robertson allowed two hits and one earned run in the top of the eighth. Two days later, he walked Dansby Swanson to lead of the ninth inning, before surrendering a two-run home run to Charlie Culberson. The Phillies still won the game 8-6, but Robertson’s struggles in his first two appearances raised some eyebrows.

And then Wednesday happened.

Manager Gabe Kapler, making a concerted effort to be more up-front with fans after tough losses, offered this assessment of Robertson.

“He just hasn’t been at his sharpest,” Kapler said. “He hasn’t had the command of his cutter, he hasn’t been able to land his curveball when he’s wanted to land his curveball, and those are his calling cards. He’s a guy that we’re going to be leaning on heavily, depending on and very much betting on to perform well for us.”

Robertson only made four Spring Training appearances, but he allowed two earned runs over 3.2 innings in the Grapefruit League. Normally, that would seem insignificant, especially for a pitcher who has the track record that Robertson has. But given his less-than-ideal start to the regular season, some have wondered if the Phillies missed some warning signs in Clearwater.

“I felt great coming out of Spring Training,” Robertson told the collective media after the game. “I was throwing the ball well, throwing a lot more strikes, throwing good finishing pitches. [When I] get ahead here, I just haven’t been able to finish anybody. Today, I just couldn’t get it over the plate.”

Robertson, like all pitchers in the Phillies bullpen, doesn’t have a defined role currently. One of the things that made him such an intriguing piece to add to Kapler’s bullpen is that he’s had success in a variety of roles. He was an All-Star as a set-up man for the New York Yankees in 2011. Between 2014 and 2016, he saved 110 games for the Yankees and Chicago White Sox. And in 2018, he again found success as a set-up man for the Yankees.

Thus far, Robertson has come into the game after Seranthony Dominguez in two of his three appearances in 2019. That leads you to think that while he may not be the closer in title, the Phillies preference heading into the season was for Dominguez to pitch in whatever the highest-leverage situation between the starter exiting the game and the conclusion of the game was. If that meant Dominguez was used before the ninth inning, Robertson would be left to either close games or keep them tied, as he was asked to do Wednesday.

After Wednesday’s game, Kapler, also citing poor performances from Aaron Nola and Rhys Hoskins, didn’t sound prepared to move Robertson into lower-leverage situations after a slow start to the 2019 season.

“One thing that stands out to me today is we had three players not have their best games in Aaron, Rhys and David,” the second-year manager said after a difficult loss. “And they are all three guys that I would push my chips in right now are going to win a ton of baseball games and be at the central point of those wins.”

Aaron Nola allowed more than four earned runs in a start for the first time since the 2017 season. It happens. Rhys Hoskins had what can only be described as an inexcusable error in the bottom of the eighth, which prevented Robertson from coming into the game in a save situation. Even if he’s a better first baseman than left fielder, many evaluators in the sport believe Hoskins would be a DH if that was an option in the National League. It isn’t currently, so the Phillies will put up with any errors Hoskins makes in the field, because he’s their cleanup hitter. Robertson, just by the nature of his role, you are a little less sure about, even if he’s only had three concerning appearances with the Phillies.

“It’s baseball, you’re not going to be good every time, it’s a game of failures. But I don’t like going out there and failing, so I’m just going to have to figure it out, go out there and throw more strikes, be more aggressive and make guys get soft contact and get some outs.”


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