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David Robertson: I still have to earn the closer's job

Relief pitcher David Robertson of the Yankees delivers

Relief pitcher David Robertson of the Yankees delivers during the eighth inning against the Baltimore Orioles. (July 6, 2013) Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

TAMPA, Fla. -- Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner has publicly stated that David Robertson will be the next closer.

General manager Brian Cashman declared Robertson the "odds-on favorite" to replace the retired Mariano Rivera.

But Robertson, who spent Tuesday morning working out at the Yankees training complex in Tampa, still feels the job is up in the air and is planning as such.

"I got a few texts after the comments came out from Hal," Robertson said. "That's great, but it's still not mine yet. It's still a lot of time between now and the season. I try not to look into it too much."

The 28-year-old righthander, who has converted only eight of 18 career save opportunities, doesn't view the closer spot any differently than the eighth-inning setup role he performed so well in last season. He made 70 appearances, striking out 77 and walking 18 in 661/3 innings while compiling a 2.04 ERA and 5-1 record.

"It's the same deal, whether you're throwing the eighth or the ninth inning, you've still got to get three outs, you've got to be effective and you can't give up the lead," he said. "In my eyes, I'm not going to try to overthink the whole situation. If I get the job at the end of spring, I'm going to do everything I can to hold it and try to help us win ballgames."

Robertson said he spoke with Rivera at the New York baseball writers' dinner last month.

"The first thing he says is, 'Are you scared?' and I'm like, 'No'. That's typical Mo," Robertson said. "He's all over my case already, and I haven't even thrown a pitch yet in 2014 and he's on me. He knows I can do it and I think I know I can do it. It's just a matter of actually stepping out there and doing it."

Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild said the burden of replacing Rivera, the career saves leader and a 13-time All-Star, shouldn't be overwhelming for Robertson.

"Everybody knows how great Mo is, but you're the closer for the Yankees. That's going to take on a different meaning altogether no matter who you replace," Rothschild said. "There's a lot that goes into it, but, at the end of the day, it's going out there and doing what he's done very well for a pretty good period of time now . . . He's going to go through bumps in the road like anybody does, like Mo did when he started closing. That's not going to be unexpected, but it's how he handles that and handles the transition that's going to matter."

Rothschild said he has communicated via email with Japanese righthander Masahiro Tanaka, who agreed to a seven-year deal worth $155 million with the Yankees last month. Rothschild said he's been impressed with Tanaka's competitive spirit.

"It's huge. The intangibles are big when you're trying to win a lot of games," Rothschild said. "I don't care where you pitch, you don't do what he's done without having that in place. You can actually see it when you watch him pitch."

Jeter continues workouts. Derek Jeter completed his second on-field batting-practice session in Tampa Tuesday, taking 48 swings through six rounds along with second baseman Dean Anna and catcher J.R. Murphy. Jeter sprayed the ball to all fields as well as driving a few into the power alleys, one reaching the base of the left-centerfield fence on the fly.

Jeter, who turns 40 in June and missed all but 17 games in 2013 after his broken left ankle never fully healed, finished his workout by fielding 10 ground balls from the infield grass followed by 32 grounders at normal depth. The Yankees captain showed no limitations in his mobility and fielded every ball cleanly.


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