Jim Baumbach is an investigative / enterprise sports reporter for Newsday. A Long Island native, he started working
The worst part about David Robertson's job has to be the waiting.
No more than 15 minutes had passed after his ninth-inning meltdown yesterday, and he already was talking about being back on the mound as soon as possible.
The way Robertson envisioned it to the crowd of reporters at his locker after the Yankees' 7-2 loss to the Twins, another save opportunity will present itself Monday night and he'll be back out there, this time ending everything on a better note.
Talking about his next outing in such positive terms almost seemed therapeutic for Robertson, especially at a time when this blown save -- he was charged with five of the Twins' six runs in the ninth and recorded only two outs -- was so fresh.
It's easy to forget that this still is all so new to him -- to everyone, really. "I'm itching to get out there," he said, "to prove I can still do this."
With Mariano Rivera, a blown save was always met with the same reaction -- shock -- and then everyone moved on. He built up enough leverage in his unparalleled career to never feel the need to publicly express a desire "to prove I can still do this."
But Robertson knows his role as the closer comes with a different set of rules than his predecessor, and understandably so. And to be clear, his job is not in jeopardy, not after two blown saves in a little more than a week.
Right now, these two blown saves out of five opportunities are best classified as a blip, something that happens often to closers. But the last thing a new closer needs is for doubt to enter the narrative, because then the no-sure-thing tag starts getting thrown around. Once a closer starts getting hit with that phrase, it's tough to kick it.
"I don't want to blow any game anywhere, but I know how to deal with it," Robertson said. "I know how to come back and get ready the next day."
Then there's something else at play here, something unique to Robertson and the Yankees. His name is Dellin Betances, and almost overnight, he seems to have morphed into the most dominant reliever in the game.
Betances threw two more lights-out innings Sunday, retiring the side in order and striking out five in the sixth and seventh innings.
With 56 strikeouts in 322/3 innings, he has fanned 46.7 percent of the hitters he has faced this season. Just how good is that? Of the 163 pitchers who have thrown at least 30 innings, the next-closest strikeout ratio is Miami's Jose Fernandez at 34.2 percent. At this point, it's almost a surprise when an opposing hitter actually puts a ball in play.
If Robertson blows a few more saves and Betances continues on this remarkable track, you know what's coming: Betances for closer!
Betances, to his credit, dodged a question yesterday about whether he's ever thought about closing. He said he's way too busy adjusting to life in the bullpen -- he was converted to relief work a little more than a year ago -- and adjusting to life in the majors to start thinking big like that.
Plus, the Yankees already have one of those, he said.
"I really haven't thought about it because you know we have a guy that does a great job," he said. "I haven't closed at all. Right now, whenever my name is called, that's my approach."
It's easy to trust that Robertson will shake off these two rough outings. His overall numbers have been strong, and everyone has a bad day here or there. But he knows that more than anyone else on the team, his job comes with a "what have you done for me lately?" tag.
He accepts it -- and insists he's already moved on.
"A bad day is a bad day," he said. "There's going to be a good day coming up next."