The results of our most recent poll indicate that loyal Daily Fungo readers would prefer Dontrelle Willis (43%), Zach Miner (38%) or perhaps even Felipe Lira as the Tigers’ fifth starter over Nate Robertson (19%).
Nevertheless, we want to continue our series of player profiles today with The Nater for two reasons — actually three, I just thought of a third: First, he made more starts last season than either Miner or Willis. Second, I already had the profile written. Last, we’ll do our friend and avowed Nater Hater, Ian Casselberry, a favor and get it out of the way.
Nate Robertson #29
- Height: 6′ 2″ | Weight: 225
- 2008 Stats: 7-11, 6.35 ERA
The Tigers had no shortage of pitching frustrations in 2008 and one could argue that the most perplexing of all was Robertson. Once considered a core member of the rotation, the lefthanderâ€™s performance in â€™08 raised questions about whether he could physically and mentally take his game to a higher level. In fact, Robertsonâ€™s season was so off-kilter that he found himself in the bullpen after a 5-8, 5.26 ERA first half.
Things improved little after the All Star Break and the 31-year-old enters 2009 as a major question mark. However, if any Tigers pitcher is likely to adopt the mantra of new pitching coach Rick Knapp â€“ throw first-pitch strikes â€“ itâ€™s Robertson, who had above-league-average success in this area in â€™08. (Nearly 60 percent of his initial offerings were strikes.)
A reversal of fortune for the Tigers in 2009 will be tied closely to Robertsonâ€™s ability to rediscover his command â€“ especially his slider â€“ and log quality starts. The club hopes an off-season exercise regimen designed to improve his flexibility will help him in the short and long term. Barring a Spring Training meltdown, expect him to return to the rotation in 2009 and to stay out of the bullpen.