2009 Player Profile: Nate Robertson

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

RobertsonHead.jpgThe 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 lefthander’s performance in ’08 raised questions about whether he could physically and mentally take his game to a higher level. In fact, Robertson’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 – throw first-pitch strikes – it’s Robertson, who had above-league-average success in this area in ’08. (Nearly 60 percent of his initial offerings were strikes.)

A reversal of fortune for the Tigers in 2009 will be tied closely to Robertson’s ability to rediscover his command – especially his slider – 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.