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Rays in the AFL: Robertson making up for lost time

Daniel Robertson doesn't like to miss time.

In 2014, for example, the infield prospect played in 132 California League games. So when he was forced out of action and missed two months with a broken hamate bone, the Rays' No. 5 prospect didn't quite know what to do with himself.

"It was a hard process," Robertson admitted. "For about four weeks, five weeks, I was sitting around, just waiting for it to heal. I was getting some lower body workouts in and doing some running and stuff. It's a healing process. You can't do anything else.

"Once I got the OK to start swinging and taking some ground balls, it happened real quick -- maybe two weeks and I was back out there. First little bit, you take some swings and here and there [you] kind of grimace a little bit, it still bothers you. But those are behind me now, and it hasn't given me any trouble. I feel back to 100 percent."

The healthy version of Robertson is playing for the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League to try to make up for some of those lost at-bats. It's Robertson's second straight season in the AFL, making the transition to the elite prospects circuit an easy one.

"Getting this under my belt last year, this year everything is free and easy and you know what to expect," Robertson said. "For me, it's just to come out here and not put a lot of pressure on myself. I'm looking forward to having fun, enjoying this time in the Fall League. It doesn't get much better than this."

Last year, Robertson also played for Mesa and hit .301 over 20 games. Of course, he did that as a part of the Oakland A's organization, shortly before being shipped to the Rays as part of the Ben Zobrist deal in January. It didn't take him long to acclimate to his new surroundings.

"They were awesome to give me that invite to big league camp," the 21-year-old Robertson said about his first Spring Training with the Rays. "They made me feel like I was home right away. They all treated me really well. That got my feet wet and got me comfortable in the organization. After that, it was smooth sailing. It's a good organization, and I'm looking forward to being with them for many years."

One of the things Robertson hopes will keep him in a Rays uniform long-term is some positional flexibility. He's played the vast majority of his games at shortstop, but he has seen a little time at third and second as well. He'll be seeing some time on the right side of second this fall as well.

"It's something I can put in my back pocket, for sure," Robertson said. "I actually feel really comfortable over there. Anytime you can get a little extra mobility around the diamond -- third, short, second, corner outfield -- whatever the team needs, I'm happy to do.

"I'm going to keep working at short, like I've always said, keep trying to improve there, which I feel like I need to do. At the same time, I'm going to try new positions out here with some of the best coordinators and learn from some of the other guys as well. It's a good time to get out here and learn, get some games under the belt at that position, too. Just in case anything happens, opens up or they need a spot, I'll be ready for it."

While his 2015 season was an up-and-down one, playing in just 82 games, Robertson feels it will also help him be ready for what lies ahead.

"This last year was a good little eye-opener for me, and I just wanted to get out here and start working and get some more games in," Robertson said. "I'm just looking forward to getting out here and having fun, because sometimes you take the game for granted and it can be taken away from you."

Rays hitters in the Fall League:

Casey Gillaspie, 1B: The Rays' first-round pick in 2014 was having a solid first full season, earning a promotion up to the Class A advanced Florida State League, when a hamate injury shelved him. He's making up for lost at-bats in Arizona, perhaps with an eye to jumping to the upper levels in '16.

Jake Bauers, OF: The former Padres prospect, who came to the Rays in the three-team deal that sent Wil Myers to San Diego, is coming off a solid first season in the organization -- one that saw him make it to Double-A at midseason. A first baseman only thus far in his career, he's giving right field a try in the AFL.

Rays pitchers in the Fall League:

Buddy Borden, RHP: The Rays got Borden from the Pirates in the Sean Rodriguez deal last offseason, and he had a solid first season in the system while splitting time between starting and relieving in the Florida State League. He's pitching out of the 'pen in the AFL, where his stuff may improve a few notches.

Mike Franco, RHP: A reliever taken in the seventh round of the 2014 Draft out of Florida International, Franco pitched at two levels of A ball in his first full season and was effective at each. The AFL could catapult him toward the Rays' bullpen.

Brad Schreiber, RHP: Splitting the year between the FSL and the Double-A Southern League, Schreiber finished tied for second in the Minors with 30 saves. The groundball machine likely won't close at the highest level, but the AFL could help him be ready for the big leagues soon.

Hunter Wood, RHP: The Rays have utilized their 29th-round pick in the 2013 Draft as both a starter and a reliever, and he's had some success in both roles. He's pitching out of the 'pen in the AFL.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for and writes a blog, B3. Follow @JonathanMayo on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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