It only seems fair that we need to acknowledge when Nate Robertson pitches well if we're going to say he "looks done" when he's pitched badly. Yesterday, Nate showed that maybe he shouldn't be counted out of that fifth starter competition just yet.
In three innings against the Blue Jays, Robertson gave up no runs and no walks, only allowing one hit, and striking out a batter. For a guy whose job (not just as a starter, but as a pitcher for the Detroit Tigers) seemed in jeopardy, it was just the sort of response we've been waiting to see.
Maybe it was the first indication that Nate is realizing what Jim Leyland said about him to reporters yesterday:
"I think Nate's got to continue to get a little better understanding of the type the pitcher he is now," manager Jim Leyland said on Saturday. "I think that's very important. The type of pitcher you are four years ago might not be the type of pitcher you are today. You may have to go about it a little bit different. So I think he's in the process of trying to make some adjustments."
Asked about those adjustments, Leyland said, "I think you have to sort it out in your mind: What type of pitcher am I? Am I a power pitcher, or am I not a power pitcher? I'm not going to decide which one he is. That's something he's got to figure out."
Leyland admitted that he has his own opinion on the matter. The question is, of course, can a different kind of Nate Robertson be good enough to earn a job on the Detroit Tigers' pitching staff, let alone their starting rotation? But for now, it's encouraging to see him make a good impression, especially the day before Rick Porcello was scratched from his Sunday start because of a cut to the fingernail on his right index finger.
The other Tigers pitcher who needs to figure it out preceded Robertson in yesterday's game, and didn't fare so well. Dontrelle Willis, a fellow candidate for the fifth starter's job, allowed four runs, four hits, and two walks in his three innings. Three of those runs were in the first inning, however, and Willis appeared to have settled down after that.
With questions about Jeremy Bonderman's readiness for Opening Day, each of the fifth starter candidates could be getting an extra opportunity to win a job. But it would certainly be more assuring to see these guys go out and earn their position.