The biggest player on the Nationals roster at 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds, Clint Robinson doesn't fit the physical parameters of your typical outfielder, so it's understandable if he wasn't fully prepared to play the position in 2015. He had always been a first baseman and had trained for years to play there. But due to injuries to Jayson Werth and Denard Span, opportunities opened up in unexpected parts of the Nationals' roster.
Robinson had played only 10 total games in the outfield as a professional baseball player before this season and all of them were in the minor leagues. But in 2015, he ended up in the outfield for 37 games with the Nats. That's nearly a quarter of the season and Robinson had to learn on the fly.
Looking back, there were some things he would do differently, but overall Robinson feels like he fared well in his new surroundings.
"Towards the second half I felt like I made really good strides," Robinson said. "[First base coach] Tony Tarasco, I don’t know if he was just trying to keep my spirits high or what not, but he told me that he was really proud of me, that I had done a pretty good job. I know there are different kinds of stats for how you play defense nowadays with all the sabermetrics and all that, but I felt that I was at least competent out there most of the time."
This offseason Robinson is preparing more so with the outfield in mind. Now, if he is asked to play the position in 2016, he will have more confidence in his abilities.
"This year coming in, I’ll definitely have a better outlook on it because I feel like I can do it. I won’t say ‘man, what’s going to happen?’ Now it’s just get out there, get my work in and prepare for the season. It won’t be so much of ‘oh crap.’ Because that’s kind of what it was like last year. This year it will be more like ‘okay, that’s my job.’ I’m coming in ready to go. Let’s just get the work in and get it done," he said.
Part of being more ready to play the outfield involves offseason training. Robinson is working hard this winter to be in better shape for the position.
"Last year was kind of a crash course for me. I don’t really think I was in the best of shape to take on left field during the summer months in Washington. I’ve taken the proper course to kind of slim down and work on my conditioning. As a first baseman, I didn’t really worry about getting winded or my legs getting tired because there wasn’t all that much to it. But those middle months, when you’re in Game 120 and it’s hot outside and those legs are dragging, that’s can affect your defense. I’ve been more geared towards conditioning and slimming down so I can move a little better if I need to play the outfield," he said.
Robinson spending a full year in the majors this past season was unexpected, but his willingness to both play the outfield and improve as he went helped him stay in Washington. He plans to take the same approach for 2016, knowing that nothing is guaranteed for the 30-year-old.
"When you’re in the minor leagues, the offseason can become kind of stale. It’s kind of hard to get motivated when you’re like ‘oh, I’m just going to be back in Triple-A.’ But now that I’ve spent a year in the big leagues, I feel like I’m part of the team up here. It’s definitely given me some extra motivation to go out and continue to work hard and try to get better," he said.
"I’m going to approach this spring training like I did every other one. I’m going to come in like I’m a non-roster guy fighting for a spot. That keeps me going. I’m not going to sit back and say just because I had a little bit of success last year then I’ve got something guaranteed, because I know I don’t. This team has high expectations. There’s going to be competition and guys coming in looking to fill those spots with Dusty looking to fill out his roster. I’m going to come in more driven than ever."