By Tom Price Jr.
A change in attitude and in role has landed Exeter product Jeriome Robertson back into Major League Baseball. On June 26 he made his second appearance out of the Cleveland Indians bullpen this season and helped them to a 5-4 win over the Colorado Rockies.
Calling Robertson's journey back to the Majors, rocky would be putting it kindly. From the day he first set foot in Buffalo, New York as a member of the Indians Triple-A franchise Bisons, Robertson didn't fit in. Coming off a season in which he led the Houston Astros in wins with 15, the crafty southpaw felt he had nothing to prove at that level and so he didn't. Between April 8 and June 26, he had a record of 4-5 with an inflated ERA of 7.27. But something clicked when Bisons manager Marty Brown sent him to the bullpen on June 23. Robertson pitched 4 2/3 innings and allowed two runs on three hits against the Indianapolis Indians.
"I don't know of any 15 game winners that have been sent down the next year. It was just subconsciously hard for me to handle. I didn't take it like 'I need to win this damn game,' and that is all there is to it," Robertson said. "All I had was a bunch of friends and family telling me 'you won 15 games you don't need to be down there.' It seemed like the second they sent me to the bullpen I just wanted to get out there and pitch and once I forgot about everything else it all fell into place."
Brown, who had managed against Robertson when he was the Triple-A player of the year, pitching for the New Orleans Zephyrs in 2000, said he remembered Robertson as a gritty pitcher who knew how to get ground balls, but what he was seeing now was a pitcher lacking in confidence and pitching away from his strength.
"Some guys come down and they put added pressure on themselves to hurry up and get back," Brown said. "He had a hard time understanding that it's about consistency and there is a lot to be accomplished in Triple-A."
From a numbers standpoint Robertson may not have accomplished all that much. But he now joins the Indians armed with a newfound perspective of the game that could make him even more valuable. He no longer looks at the game with a sense of entitlement and he says that the last few months have been a humbling experience and one he doesn't want to revisit.
"Maybe I can learn to be a Triple-A pitcher, maybe I could get myself pumped up if I knew that was all I can be, but it just isn't enough for me," Robertson said. "I think for the most part when you get called up if you are doing the job you will have an opportunity to stay and help the team."
He is off to a good start, pitching two scoreless innings and earning his first win of the season against the Rockies. He struck out two and allowed just one hit.
"It's good to be back," Robertson said. "I am very interested in the relieving aspect of the game. I have never seen it this way, I like how you can pitch two days in a row and how when you enter, the game is on the line. It's cool but I am still not leaving starting out of the picture."
That's fine with the Indians as long as he continues to see the big picture.