White Sox

White Sox

David Robertson had the look of a $46 million closer Saturday afternoon.

The 30-year-old right-hander struck out the side to close out the White Sox first win of the season, a 5-4 victory over Minnesota. But the way Robertson worked the Twins served as a reminder of why the White Sox shelled out a pricey four-year deal to him over the winter.

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Robertson needed only 15 pitches to blow through the back of the Twins’ order, generating seven swinging strikes against Chris Herrmann, Shane Robinson and Jordan Schafer. He threw eight curveballs and seven cutters, and mixed those pitches well:

(Graph via BrooksBaseball.net)

In alternating between his looping mid-80’s curveball and sharp mid-90’s cutter, Robertson was able to expand the strike zone by changing the eye level of Twins hitters. Having the late shadows on his side certainly helped, too.

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By starting his curveball high and having it drop into the lower third of the strike zone or out of the strike zone, those high cutters turned out to be nearly impossible to hit.

“It’s misleading on (hitters) whenever they see the ball coming out of your hand,” Robertson said. “They can’t tell exactly where it’s going to be in the strike zone or if it’s going to be in the strike zone at all.”

 

(Graph via BrooksBaseball.net)

“I’ve tried to hit (him) before and it’s pretty challenging,” catcher Tyler Flowers said. “I think what really sets it up is the ability to throw the cutter to both sides of the plate and especially elevating the cutter. He does a really good job of that. That plays to the curveball of them trying to chase it. It also plays to after the curveball, the hesitation on the cutter up and guys being tardy on that.”

Robertson’s spring training numbers weren’t good — an 8.10 ERA with four strikeouts, five walks and two home runs allowed in 6 2/3 innings — but he never was concerned. The longtime Yankees reliever didn’t throw many curveballs in Cactus League games, deciding to not tax his arm with a pitch he didn’t feel the need to show much.

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But in his first save opportunity with the White Sox, Robertson’s full arsenal was on display — and Minnesota couldn’t do anything with it.

“The only concern was everybody else here who was like wow, you stink, it’s spring and you can’t get anybody out,” Robertson said with a grin. “… I just needed to get out of Arizona and get into an atmosphere that actually counted.”