Friday, June 29, 2012

Contemplating Tyler Robertson

Big Tyler Robertson struck out the first
four men he faced. Then he yielded
four singles.
Brian Duensing is the scheduled starter tonight; it will be his second turn in the rotation after spending the first two-and-a-half months in the bullpen.

It seems clear that this is not intended to be a temporary gig for Duensing. Ron Gardenhire and Co. liked what they saw of him as a starter in 2009 and 2010, and the Twins are in sufficient need of competent starters that he's going to get a clear shot at the job he coughed up in 2011.

There are a number of ramifications to this, not least of which is the need for a second lefty in the bullpen. Glen Perkins is either the closer or the eighth inning guy, and with him held back for the late innings and Duensing in the rotation, Gardy wants/needs a LOOGY to deal with left-handed sticks in earlier innings.

Tyler Robertson is the first in line for the job. The hulking rookie — 6-5, 255 pounds, or so he's listed — had an auspicious debut Tuesday, striking out the first three men he faced: Alejandro De Aza (lefty), Kevin Youkilis (righty) and Adam Dunn (lefty). Robertson worked again Wednesday, and fanned De Aza again before allowed four straight singles. Two of them, however, where "swinging bunt" squibbers that Trevor Plouffe couldn't make plays on at third base, and another was a broken bat single.

So the stat line after two outings is pretty ugly: 1.2 innings, four hits, two runs and an ERA of 10.80.

More noteworthy, I think, are the four strikeouts. He's shown a quality slider, and having that breaking ball with which to torment left-handed hitters is half the battle in the LOOGY role.

Two things must happen for Robertson to keep the job, only one of which is within his control. He has to pitch well, particularly against left-handed hitters; and Duensing has to get right-handers out consistently as a starter. If Duensing reverts to his 2011 struggles against righties, he won't stick in the rotation.

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