ST. PETERSBURG — David Robertson had plenty of reasons to want to join the Rays.
He was familiar with the area after living in St. Petersburg during the offseasons of his nine-plus years pitching for the Yankees.
He relished the chance to return to the playoffs, having pitched in 30 postseason games and winning a World Series with the 2009 Yankees.
And he greatly admired the Rays during a 12-season career that also included stints with the White Sox and Phillies.
“It’s a great opportunity,” said Robertson, 36. “I’ve always enjoyed playing against the Rays, just because they were the toughest, scrappiest team that we ever played against. Now I’m on the other side of it, so I’m excited to be a part of that team and see what happens from here.”
The Rays are excited, as well, eager to add a pitcher with Robertson’s experience, stature and sterling reputation and someone they feel can get key outs with a 91-93 mph fastball and sharp curve.
He will be called up on Wednesday, when rosters expand from 26 to 28, signing a one-year, pro-rated $2 million deal that pays him roughly $530,000. The Rays were still deciding Tuesday afternoon whether the second call-up will be a reliever or position player, such as infielder Taylor Walls.
Robertson hasn’t pitched in the majors since April 2019 with the Phillies. He underwent Tommy John surgery that August and had setback as a result of rushing his return that ended up sidelining him all of 2020.
But the Rays are confident from seeing Robertson pitch for the U.S. team before and during the Olympics that he was healthy and back to pre-surgery form, if not the 2014-16 run when he had 110 saves for the Yankees and White Sox. In his 12 major-league seasons, he has a 53-33, 2.90 record with 137 saves, serving as the setup man for Yankees closer extraordinaire Mariano Rivera.
“He’s got as much experience as anybody on our team, so I think that’ll help,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash, who played with Robertson on the 2009 Yankees. “When he’s healthy, he’s shown and proven that he’s been just a very, very good reliever in whatever role. Whether it’s closing, whether it’s set up, just coming in to get a guy out and go back out, he’ll do everything.”
Robertson made six appearances at Triple-A Durham to get back into a regular routine after returning from Tokyo, striking out 12 of the 22 batters he faced, allowing four hits and a walk with one unearned run. Cash asked J.P. Feyereisen, who was rehabbing at Durham at the time, what he thought.
“He said that he looked like a 12-year big leaguer pitching down there,” Cash said. “So that’s a good sign that he’s got his command, he’s got his stuff, health-wise he feels 100 percent.”
Robertson said he is willing to do whatever he’s asked and feels healthy and back to form.
“(The ball) feels like it’s coming out the same,” he said. “Everything seems to be the same. I haven’t really, like, checked numbers, anything like that. But I mean, it’s as good as I can throw it.”
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