On Thursday, the Minnesota Twins got a big 8-2 win over the Detroit Tigers to improve to 2-1 on the season, the first time they have been over .500 since the 2010 season. However, the game was not the blowout that the final score would indicate. In fact, there was a very key moment in the 7th
inning that could have altered the results of the game.
With the Twins leading 3-2 going into the 7th
frame, Josh Roenicke walked Omar Infante and gave up a double to Austin Jackson to put runners on first and second with nobody out. He struckout Torii Hunter for the first out and then was asked to intentionally walk Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera to load the bases. Prince Fielder was coming up, and left-hander Tyler Robertson was coming in.
On Monday, before the Opening Day game against the Tigers, I had the opportunity to talk to Robertson. I asked him about his role, and specifically asked if he was looking forward to a role in which he needed to come in to face a Prince Fielder in a key situation. His response?
ďIíll do whatever they have me do. Prince is obviously a tough hitter. I think Iíve faced him 5-6 times last year and he got me once. Iím confident against anybody. I know if I execute my pitches, Iíll be fine. Heís just one of the guys that you really have to be careful with and make sure you execute because if you donítÖĒ
I butted in by saying, ďYouíll see what happens.Ē
And Robertson chuckled and said, ďYeah, Iíve seen what happens! On the other hand, weíve had some good at bats where I made some good pitches and I got him. Hopefully me and him are battling for a long time. Iíd like that. Iím up for the challenge.Ē
On Thursday, in his first appearance of the season, Robertson was up to the challenge.
Last June 26, a 24-year-old Robertson made the jog in from the Target Field bullpen to the mound for his Major League debut against the Chicago White Sox. The first batter he faced was outfielder Alejandro de Aza, and he struck him out. He then struckout Kevin Youklis looking. Finally, he was able to strike out the side when he got Adam Dunn to swing and miss. Robertson looked back at the memory fondly.
ďIt was unbelievable. I got here the day before. Got kind of settled in, but I knew the nerves were still going to be there until I actually got out there on the mound. I was confident going in. I was going pretty good in AAA. I knew that if I threw like I was throwing down there, I was going to be fine. Itís definitely not easy up here. This is the best of the best. It was reassuring to know that you can do it. You always believe you can do it, but until you actually see that you can do it. You just prove it to yourself.Ē
Was that the biggest thing he learned from that rookie season?
ďYeah, without a doubt. I mean, there was a lot of other things I learned about hitters up here and certain teamsí tendencies and all that stuff. But the biggest thing was, it doesnít matter what level youíre pitching at, itís confidence. You can have confidence up here and throw the ball in the minor leagues for the most part, Iíll be just fine.Ē
There was no question that Robertson was thrilled to make the Twins Opening Day roster and happy to experience his first Opening Day.
ď(Iím) just really excited. I mean, I think the nerves got out a little bit last year with making the debut and being up here for a little while. That was just pure excitement. Iím ready to go. Itís going to be fun to get the season rolling.Ē
It was fun picking his brain about his thoughts on facing tough lefties, like Fielder. What pitches does he throw and why? He provided a little bit of insight:
ďWhen I came up here last year, it (the slider) was going really good at the time. It was a little bit of a blessing and a curse because it was a good pitch for me up here, but I think I probably overused it a little bit because it was working so well. In ST, one of the things I did, especially against the lefties, I was mixing in more fastballs. In spring, I had a little success with it, left-on-left, mixing in the fastball. Guys were swinging at a lot more first pitches so I couldnít do it left-on-left, probably didnít want to get too deep into the count. I got more swings at fastballs earlier in the count, which is fine. Iím going to need to throw that more to set up the breaking ball and everything. I know that, and Iím confident in my fastball to do that left-on-left. Itís something I did in 2010 a lot when I was closing in AA. Shoot, I faced 5 lefties over a span of time and didnít even throw a slider, so I feel comfortable throwing a fastball to them. I know Iím going to need to do that. Obviously the sliderís always going to be in the back of my mind, but that will help my fastball out if I can show a few more fastballs. Just got to keep it balanced. If theyíre 100% sitting on slider, I mean, I can throw the best one Iíve got and it wonít be as effective.Ē
The life of a relief pitcher is filled with ups and downs. When they do their job well, not everybody notices. When they donít do their job well, everybody notices.
On Thursday, he entered the Twins/Orioles game in the 8th
inning with a tied game and the red-hot Chris Davis up to bat. Unfortunately for the Twins, on this day, the hitter won. Davis hit a grand slam that made a 5-5 game a 9-5 game in a hurry.
Such is the role of a reliever. Robertson played hero on Wednesday, and he gets to play the goat on Thursday. Itís a tough job, and Tyler Robertson is more than happy to do it for the Twins.