It had not been even three full years since David Robertson last stood in the Yankees’ home clubhouse, but things sure have changed.
“I think [the team] had to get younger,” Robertson joked before Tuesday’s 4-2 win over Cincinnati. “It couldn’t get any older when I was there.”
The Yankees (52-46) acquired Robertson along with Todd Frazier and Tommy Kahnle from the Chicago White Sox (39-58) last week, sending a package headlined by prospects Blake Rutherford and Ian Clarkin. The three new Yankees joined the team in Seattle on Thursday for the four-game weekend series, which the Yankees won, 3-1.
When Robertson last pitched in pinstripes in 2014, the Yankees’ roster included Derek Jeter, Carlos Beltran, Alfonso Soriano, Hiroki Kuroda and Ichiro Suzuki — all 37 or older. Alex Rodriguez, 39 at the time, was serving a suspension for the entire 2014 season.
The Yankees’ current 25-man roster has 10 players 26 years old or younger.
“I feel like the new old guy,” said Robertson, 32, who signed with the White Sox on a four-year, $46-million deal following that 2014 season. “Everyone in there’s 22 or 23 years old, but it’s great. It’s nice to be in a clubhouse that’s got so much energy. There’s kind of a buzz about this team. You can tell just being here for three days.”
With the Yankees from 2008-14, Robertson appeared in 402 games, posting a 2.81 ERA and striking out 524 batters in 393 1⁄3 innings. He had a 2.70 ERA and 47 strikeouts through 33 1⁄3 innings for Chicago this season, and struck out five and allowed just one hit — a homer to Robinson Cano — over three relief innings in Seattle.
After Sunday’s 6-4 win over the Mariners, Robertson said he flew back to Chicago and arrived around 5 a.m.
“Our new baby girl Violet decided not to go to sleep,” he said, “so I stayed up for a few extra hours with her and tried to give Erin [his wife] a break, just spent the rest of the day packing up trying to get everything I needed for the stay here until she could come meet me.”
Robertson, under contract through next season, said he plans to stay in a hotel for now.
Though he accrued 39 saves in 2014 as the Yankees closer, Robertson will serve primarily as yet another elite strikeout reliever in the bullpen, as the game works its way toward Aroldis Chapman shutting the door. Dellin Betances (No. 1), Kahnle (No. 3), Chapman (No. 7) and Robertson (No. 10) all rank among the American League’s top 10 relievers who have thrown 20 or more innings in strikeouts per nine innings.
Robertson did not enter Tuesday’s game, but he said Yankees fans can expect him to trot to the mound to his old entry song: Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama.”
“There’s lots of things you miss,” he said. “You miss a lot of the staff, teammates, playing in the Stadium, but my time was up here. I had to make a decision of where to go and this team was moving in a different direction at the time and now it seems like I’ve been asked to come back and fill a vital role, so I’m hopeful I can go out and do that for them.”