Happy to Pitch for the Rays, Team U.S.A. or Westcott Properties

BOSTON — The pitching arm is extraordinarily demanding. You can’t simply ignore it and count on it to work once you want it. Thankfully, although, it isn’t choosy. Just ask David Robertson.

Ten weeks earlier than he returned to the majors with the Tampa Bay Rays to face the Boston Red Sox, Robertson wanted someplace to pitch. It was late June and he had already helped the United States Olympic staff qualify for the Tokyo Games. But the worldwide event was weeks away, and Robertson’s arm was begging for competitors.

So Robertson suited up for an beginner males’s league staff at Cardines Field in Newport, R.I., not removed from his dwelling in Barrington. He pitched two innings however doesn’t bear in mind the title of his staff.

“I had to give my jersey back; I didn’t want to take it from ’em because I wasn’t coming back,” Robertson stated on Sunday, earlier than a considerably higher-profile recreation at Fenway Park. “I know it was the Sunset League, though, and I was definitely the oldest guy.”

For the document, Robertson pitched for Westcott Properties against R&R Construction. Before lengthy he was in Tokyo, incomes two saves and returning with a silver medal, and from there it was onto the Durham Bulls, the Rays’ Class AAA affiliate.

And now, after a September call-up, Robertson is again in the postseason for the seventh time. Robertson, a right-hander, has pitched in all three video games of this American League division collection in opposition to the Red Sox, permitting no runs in 4 innings, together with two in Sunday’s 6-Four loss in 13 innings. The Red Sox lead the best-of-five collection, two video games to one, with Game Four scheduled for Monday evening in Boston.

“Robbie has been there and done it all,” stated Rays Manager Kevin Cash, who caught Robertson for the Yankees’ World Series title staff in 2009. “He’s pitched on the biggest stage, biggest moments. I think his veteran knowledge of how to navigate through challenging times and challenging venues has been a big benefit to our entire roster.”

Robertson, 36, shouldn’t be the Rays’ oldest participant — designated hitter Nelson Cruz is 41 — however he’s the oldest pitcher. He reached the majors with the Yankees in 2008, and two years later started a streak of 9 seasons with no less than 60 appearances.

Then his arm betrayed him. In his first month of a two-year, $23 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies, Robertson tore his flexor tendon and ulnar collateral ligament. His restoration went effectively, he stated, till the pandemic sidetracked his routine, setting him again and costing him the abbreviated 2020 season. The Phillies declined his membership choice for 2021.

Robertson delay signing with a staff till after the Olympics, the place he closed out victories in opposition to South Korea and the Dominican Republic and likewise pitched in opposition to Japan, which received gold. Playing earlier than no followers, he obtained a style of the surreal main league expertise he had missed in 2020.

“It was an interesting trip, put it that way — just a huge stadium with no one in there and you could hear everything,” Robertson stated. “They were very rushed games, because of the time constraints they had between innings. But it was awesome.”

Robertson selected the Rays, he stated, due to his familiarity with the Tampa space and the A.L. East. He additionally knew the Rays had some accidents of their bullpen and thought he may slide simply right into a late-inning position.

Much of the Rays’ success, although, comes from embracing the unconventional. They had 14 completely different pitchers with a save this season, setting a significant league document, and their relievers know to be prepared always. (On Sunday they used Andrew Kittredge, their solely All-Star reliever this season, to stifle a rally in the third inning.)

Robertson, because it turned out, was up for something.

“In the initial interview, he’s like, ‘Whatever, I’m good, three innings, no problem,’” stated Rays pitching coach Kyle Snyder, who additionally let Robertson begin a recreation. “You could get some guys who come in here, at least halfway from a previous generation, that don’t necessarily buy into this.

“I know from an industry standpoint, what we do is looked at a little bit critically. But we’re just doing what we do. We can’t ride that same wave everybody else does; we can’t spend the money they can. We have to figure out ways to maximize our roster.”

In some methods, after all, the Rays are a troubled franchise. With chronically poor attendance, they’ve been pushing for a doubtful dual-city plan through which they’d play half their dwelling video games in Montreal. Their persistently low payroll — simply $83 million for the 40-man roster this yr, in accordance to Baseball Prospectus — offers them the freedom to experiment with largely low-cost gamers simply pleased to have the likelihood.

Their success presents a problem for the gamers as a complete. By proving they will win with a low funds (the Rays have had the greatest document in the A.L. in every of the final two seasons) are the Rays diminishing the incomes worth of gamers?

Robertson, as a former participant consultant to the Major League Baseball Players Association, stated he was not involved.

“It always irons itself where the union and the M.L.B.P.A. come to an agreement where guys will be able to get more of a share of their market value,” he stated. “This is more of a spot where guys can come in, figure out what they’re doing and then they might leave here because they’re earning too much to stay on this roster.”

While they’re collectively, although, the Rays appear to know they’re a part of an ever-evolving experiment in how to construct a winner. It doesn’t at all times work; a pitching workers encouraged to fill up the strike zone is typically hit onerous, as the Rays have been since their shutout in the opener of this collection.

But their postseason presence is a testomony to their ingenuity. The Rays will look wherever for a participant who may assist, even when he pitched in opposition to R&R Construction on his winding path to October.

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