Trade back to Phils offers Robertson shot at redemption

RHP earns save in first appearance with 1-2-3 ninth inning against Braves

August 3rd, 2022

ATLANTA -- David Robertson is back with the Phillies, and this time, he joked, he will pitch.

He pitched splendidly in Wednesday afternoon’s 3-1 victory over the Braves at Truist Park. The Phillies used Seranthony Domínguez and José Alvarado in the eighth. The pocket of the Braves’ lineup in the ninth put Robertson on the mound, instead of left-hander Brad Hand. Robertson delivered. He struck out Austin Riley and Eddie Rosario swinging and got Marcell Ozuna to pop out to end the game.

It was Robertson’s first save with the Phillies.

“It was definitely better than blowing it,” Robertson deadpanned. “I had a lot of hard outings when I was here last time. It felt nice to nail one down for the team.”

This could be a nice comeback story for Robertson, who the Cubs traded to Philadelphia on Tuesday for pitching prospect Ben Brown. Robertson, 37, signed a two-year, $23 million contract with the Phillies before the 2019 season. An injured elbow, which required Tommy John surgery in August 2019, limited him to only 6 2/3 innings in seven appearances over the entirety of the deal. He never got a win. He never got a save.

But Robertson is healthy again and pitching as well as he pitched in his prime.

It presents him an opportunity …

“To redeem myself?” Robertson said Wednesday morning at Truist Park. “Yeah, it would be nice. I was very excited to come here last time. I felt like it was the perfect fit. Then I got here and my body just let me down. I just blew my elbow out. I couldn’t pitch. I was no help to the team. I’m back now. I’ve got a chance to throw. We’ve got a playoff chance. I’m excited about it.”

Robertson was 3-0 with a 2.23 ERA and 14 saves in 36 appearances with the Cubs. He struck out 51 and walked 19 in 40 1/3 innings. He had a 2.0 WAR, according to Baseball Reference. It matched Domínguez, who has been the Phillies’ best reliever this season.

“When I was 26 to 32, I was probably where I’m at right now,” Robertson said. “I feel that good, maybe even a little better. The surgery was successful. I definitely needed it. The decline in my stuff was happening and I think that overthrowing lead to me getting hurt. Since having everything repaired, I’ve felt really good.”

Robertson really is throwing like he did before he got hurt. His cutter is averaging 93.3 mph this year. It averaged a career-best 93.5 mph in 2011.

“I definitely thought my career was over,” Robertson said. “I didn’t get a lot of great news after I tried to rush back in 2020. I was really, really trying to push my body to get back in a year, only to realize that when they tell you 16-18 months, they mean 16-18 months. I almost blew it out again.”

Phillies interim manager Rob Thomson said he will continue to use Domínguez and Hand in the eighth and ninth innings, although there will be times like Wednesday when Thomson must adjust.

Robertson is fine with wherever he pitches.

“I didn’t sign up to be a closer with the Cubs,” he said. “I signed up to pitch in the back end of the bullpen, the late innings. So I’ll be ready from the sixth on to go.”

Thomson likes his bullpen options entering the season’s final two months. He’s got Domínguez, Hand, Robertson, Corey Knebel, Alvarado, Connor Brogdon and Andrew Bellatti to pitch in high-leverage moments with Nick Nelson as the long man.

“They get a feel for pitching in different innings, which is good because you’re not going to have everybody available every night,” Thomson said. “It’s like different guys are getting a chance to pitch the eighth, different guys are getting a chance to pitch the ninth. So they’re comfortable.”