SURPRISE, Az. – The Texas Rangers are Nate Robertson’s seventh organization since 2010, so he figured it was time to try something new.
Robertson, who was a 13-game winner for the 2006 American League champion Detroit Tigers, is still left-handed, and still wears glasses.
But, as he puts it, “I’ve basically reinvented everything I’ve ever done.”
Robertson, 35, is now a reliever, not a starter. He also is throwing sidearm, from a low three-quarters arm slot, rather than over the top.
It all happened almost by accident.
Robertson was starting in Triple A for the Toronto Blue Jays last season when a line drive struck him in the elbow, forcing him to the disabled list.
When he returned for the final two weeks of the season, the team had no room in its rotation, and needed him as a reliever.
Bob Stanley, the team’s pitching coach, asked Robertson to “drop down” and lower his arm slot. Robertson had success, and decided to stick with it.
Mike Grouse, a scout with the Rangers, visited Robertson at his home in Maize, KS., in late January to watch him throw.
The audition, Robertson said, took place in a shop building behind his house. The building is about 120 feet long, and Robertson outfitted it with a net and plastic mound.
His catcher that day?
Pat Murphy, a lawyer who doubles as the bullpen catcher for the Wichita Wingnuts, an independent team in which Robertson has an ownership stake.
“I’m in tennis shoes, sweatpants and t-shirt, throwing off this mound with this new delivery, and three days later the Rangers offered me a contract,” Robertson said.
Robertson, who averaged 31 starts for the Tigers from 2004 to ’08, but hasn’t pitched in the majors since ’10, signed a minor-league deal.
All he wanted was another chance.
“I’ve had a lot of fun doing this, more fun than I’ve had in the last several years that I’ve played,” Robertson said.
“I’ve had elbow issues, and had surgery in Mariners camp (in 2011). I would see my stuff, it would be flat, guys would get good swings on it, my slider wasn’t as sharp as it used to be.
“I’ve got a competitive spirit. I want to play. Before I get it out of my system, I have to try some different things.”