Mets reliever, and former Yankee, David Robertson gets the call for some spring training Q&A with Post columnist Steve Serby.
Q: What is the mindset of this 2023 Mets team?
A: I think it’s a team that wants to win. It’s got all the talent. On paper, we look great, and we know that. We just gotta go out there and do it in between the lines. It’s gonna be a long season, a tough grind in a really tough division. But I think that if we do what we’re supposed to do, we’ll come out on top.
Q: How does the loss for the season of Edwin Diaz impact your outlook and your own role?
A: Moving forward, we have to figure out new ways to get outs later on in the game. We have the talent here. We have to go out and do it.
Q: Do you miss the closer role?
A: I’ve never really cared when I pitched, to begin with. Innings are innings. The seventh and eighth inning can be just as important as the ninth.
Q: Does this team remind you in any way of your 2009 champion Yankees?
A: A little bit, it does, it has a little bit of that feeling. If we didn’t have the WBC going right now, I’d definitely be able to tell you if we had that feeling or not.
Q: But you see some signs that are similar?
A: For sure. We definitely have all the makings of being able to win.
Q: When you think back to your 2009 World Series championship with the Yankees, what goes through your mind?
A: I wish I could have remembered more of it. I was in my second year in the league. It was exciting, it was fun. I just can’t remember too much of it. I feel like it flew by so fast, and I thought we were gonna do it every year after that.
Q: Were you part of the dogpile when it ended?
A: It’s hard to get there from the bullpen, that’s a long run. It’s kind of broken down by that point.
Q: What do you remember about the emotions when the final out was recorded?
A: I feel like we knew we’re gonna win the whole time, so it was just a matter of it actually ending. That might sound weird to say, but I feel like that team that year knew we were gonna win in spring training and there was no doubt about it, there was no one who was gonna stop us.
Q: What made that team special?
A: I don’t know, I really couldn’t tell you. I feel like we knew it was our time to win. A.J. [Burnett] had just come over, CC [Sabathia] came over, his first year, [Mark] Teixeira had his first year there, the guys in our lineup just crushed the baseball the whole year, we hit so many home runs … it just seemed like all the stars were aligned for us to win.
Q: Describe your mentality on the mound.
A: I feel like most of the time, I’m pretty happy and probably talk too much out there. I just try to do whatever it takes to get the guy out. … Probably overthink too much. I don’t have like the “I’m gonna get angry and throw it by you” mentality. I’m not that kind of person. I just try to figure out what’s gonna work and try to make a pitch.
Q: How much longer do you want to play?
A: I don’t know, till they tell me I’m not good enough or they stop paying me.
Q: Your birthday is coming up soon, April 9.
A: Yeah, coming up on 38, yeah. I feel pretty good. It helps when you have a new elbow that works.
Q: Where are you as a pitcher now compared to three, four, five years ago?
A: I felt like before I had [Tommy John] surgery, from 2010 to 2017, ’18, I had a really good feel for throwing the baseball. I felt like I kind of had a really good mix of what I did well. And then, after having surgery coming back, I feel like the game has kind of evolved and changed, the guys are throwing the high fastballs, and everyone’s throwing 100 [mph]. So I’ve kind of had to adapt a lot more and figure out new ways to pitch and get guys out. It’s still very similar to what I did before, but it’s a tick slower and it’s probably a little more crafty.
Q: You’re still a thrower, but maybe more of a pitcher and thrower?
A: Yeah, I just definitely am not scared to throw more breaking balls at this point in my career, ’cause they seem to help me get guys out a lot more. I think early in my career, I threw a lot more fastballs, but now I’ve kind of leaned on my breaking balls a lot more.
Q: How was it negotiating your deal this time compared to the first time you did it?
A: This was the fourth one. Obviously, knowing Billy [Eppler, Mets GM] and having a relationship with Billy made it a lot easier. It went very fast. He was ready for me to sign and I was ready to sign, so he kind of caught me at a good time, and it worked out.
Q: What compelled you to negotiate your own deal the first time?
A: First, I thought that I could do it. I felt like I’d been in the game long enough. I kind of had a good idea of what my market value was, and I wanted to see mainly if I could do it and what the conversations would be like on the phone with some of these GMs and some of these presidents of teams, just to kind of understand how that side of the game works.
Q: You must enjoy pitching on the New York stage.
A: I do. I think that that’s one of the fun, the perks of playing in New York, whether you’re with the Yankees or the Mets. It’s a big city, big crowds, you’re under the spotlight, and I feel like it brings out the best focus that I have on the field. When you set out to play baseball, you want to play in the big markets, that’s where the fun is, that’s where the action is, and that’s what I enjoy about New York.
Q: What are your thoughts on Mets owner Steve Cohen?
A: That’s my guy. He gave me a great offer and a good job and a great opportunity, so he’s definitely my favorite.
Q: Pete Alonso?
A: Haven’t had too much time around him. He seems very low-key, like very easygoing guy for someone who’s on the big stage all the time.
Q: Buck Showalter?
A: A lot funnier than I was expecting. I can’t give you any examples, but he has great one-liners (laugh).
Q: These one-liners pertain to you?
A: They pertain to baseball and life in general, he just seems like he’s always got something on his mind. It’s usually very comical.
Q: Jeff McNeil?
A: Guy can hit. He’s a great bat-to-ball hitter.
Q: Francisco Lindor?
A: He’s got a lot of colorful clothing.
Q: What has been your experience pitching to him?
A: I’ve done fairly well against Lindor in my career, especially being with the White Sox and facing him with Cleveland a lot.
Q: And McNeil?
A: I think McNeil’s beating me right now. I think he’s gotten more hits than I have gotten him out.
Q: Brett Baty?
A: The kid’s a freak, he’s huge. He’s so young and big, talented, strong. … He looks like a big leaguer. I think he’s gonna be around for a long time.
Q: What stands out to you about Justin Verlander?
A: I like his work ethic. I’ve watched him throw a couple of bullpens. I like how he approaches the way he throws his bullpen, his thought process on pitching.
Q: Max Scherzer?
A: He’s different than I was expecting, but I like his attitude, he wants to play and he wants to win.
Q: What did you expect?
A: I just didn’t know. You look across the lines and see him, he’s a little, I guess, goofier around the clubhouse, but I haven’t seen him in intense mode yet. I’ve heard he has another … better side of him when it’s actually real game day and not spring training game day.
Q: Goofy how?
A: Just a kind of a funny guy, he’s just easy to get along with. He’s low-key, not intense like I thought he would kind of be.
Q: Kodai Senga?
A: Senga’s that same guy I saw in Japan. He’s got electric stuff. Very nice young man. I think he’s got the stuff to do it here in the league, that’s for sure.
Q: Do you like pitching in Citi Field?
A: I do. I wish they’d put the fences back, but other than that, I like it.
Q: Describe Derek Jeter’s leadership when you were with the Yankees.
A: He didn’t speak unless he had to. And when he did speak, everyone listened. He was never an in-your-face kind of guy.
Q: What is the biggest thing you learned from Mariano Rivera?
A: The biggest thing from Mariano was watching his routine. That guy was like clockwork. He had the same warmup routine, the same demeanor when he took the ball every single game, and the fact that if he had a bad game, if God forbid he blew one, he came back the next day and he had no idea about it. He could just put it in the past real quick and turn around and get ready for the next one.
Q: What was Sabathia like in 2009?
A: CC’s a freaking competitor. When he gets on the mound, watch out. I loved that intensity that he would always bring. Between him and [Andy] Pettitte, they were both incredibly intense on the mound and just did not want to give in, and I loved that about ’em both.
Q: Describe the young Aaron Judge.
A: He’s a giant human who is one of the kindest people I’ve been around, and I like his intensity to play, too. He wants to bring it every day, and he has, and it’s paid off for him, and he’s in a great spot, and I’m happy for him in his situation.
Q: You didn’t want to leave the Yankees after the 2014 season?
A: I didn’t have an offer from the Yankees.
Q: Did that hurt at that time?
A: No, they just didn’t offer, so I looked out for me and my family and went to an organization [Whit Sox] that was happy to have me.
Q: What were your emotions when you returned to the Yankees in 2017?
A: I was excited to come back. Once again, it was a playoff-run team in ’17, we had a good chance, we turned the season around. Me, [Tommy] Kahnle and [Todd] Frazier came back over. Made a good run at it, just fell short to the Astros once again.
Q: Describe being in the 2022 World Series with the Phillies.
A: It was a lot of fun, and intense. I just wish we could have actually taken down the Astros. I thought we were in a good spot there. We went from all-time high to all-time low, but I’m glad I got the opportunity to go again, I’m hoping to get another shot at it this year.
Q: You suffered a calf injury celebrating a Bryce Harper home run in the wild-card round and missed the NLDS.
A: Getting old and got too excited, and tried to jump up and give a teammate a high-five and didn’t get off the ground. … I definitely felt sick about it. I felt like I let down the team.
Q: Phillies manager Rob Thomson was Yankees third base coach and bench coach. Did you think he was managerial material when you were with the Yankees?
A: I did. When Thomps was with the Yankees, he controlled everything in spring training, from scheduling, he always knew what was going on with every facet of the organization. I think I said it last year, I was like, even when [Joe] Girardi was the guy, Thomps was also the guy. If you needed something, Thomps knew exactly where to go, when to be there, what was going on, why we were doing this and how to do it. He’s a very knowledgeable guy, and he definitely was manager material from the get-go.
Q: What did you learn about Carlos Rodon when you were with the White Sox?
A: Carlos was young when I had him there, but he was very determined. He’s left-handed, he throws upper 90s, he’s had to go through a run, too, with some surgeries. He’s a tough kid and a tough competitor. It shows because of what he’s been able to do the last few years and to get himself back to where he is, and then to pick up a great contract and end up in a big market.
Q: What was that like being a member of the White Sox when the Cubs finally won their World Series?
A: It wasn’t fun for us. No one really knew who we were (laugh). It was all about the Cubs in Chicago then.
Q: What was it like for you when you were out of baseball, missing 2020 and most of 2021 and waiting for a call?
A: I went through a good struggle when I had surgery. The Phillies took my buyout, then I went home, then COVID was going on, didn’t know if I was gonna play or not, and then actually did some showcases in ’21, and had some big league offers but turned them down and decided to go try to win a gold medal with the U.S. Olympic team. So I just kind of enjoyed some family time and rehabbed on my own, and figured out how to pitch again. In the back of my mind, I knew I was gonna get back into baseball, I just didn’t know when. I just knew I had to kind of find my way in and get myself healthy again. Didn’t really have to deal with too many setbacks in my rehab because I had so much time off in between outings. It was nice to be home with the kids and the family. But in my mind, I’m a competitor, I knew I was gonna get back into the league.
Q: Was there one specific low point after the Tommy John surgery?
A: Yeah, I [got] bad news at probably right around a year, but it turned out to be false news, I was pushing myself too hard, and my body just wasn’t ready to throw yet, my joint just hadn’t hedged up enough. Then I got great news from Dr. [James] Andrews and did some injections and took some rest, and next thing you know, come back full-fledged, my arm felt great.
Q: Describe the Tokyo Olympics.
A: It was hot! It was nice to be able to go to Japan, and I had a great time over there and staying in the Olympic Village. I will say it was skewed because of COVID, so we weren’t allowed to go into Tokyo and see anything. We were confined to the Village, between there and Yokohama where we were playing. It was a great experience to be able to go and see all athletes and see everything else that’s going on, but once again, we weren’t allowed to go to any other sports or watch any other events, so we were pretty much stuck in the Village until we left to go practice or play. Wearing the mask all day long, outside, inside, everywhere you went was pretty tough to do in the sweltering heat there.
Q: You were silver medalists?
A: We had a good run. The Japanese team was just a little better than us, they had some great pitchers, Senga was one of ’em, [Masahiro] Tanaka …
Q: You won the gold in 2017 with Team USA in the WBC?
A: That was a lot of fun. It was so nice to be on a team that meshed so well so quickly. For a group of guys that were gonna battle each other as soon as that WBC ended, was a lot of fun. I got to play with guys that I would never get to play with again. But I had a great time. We all wanted to win and were committed to it, and I hope that this next group that’s playing right now can go and get it done. It was so much fun to go through the whole experience and to win, and it was like the saddest thing ever when we won because it was like, “Oh gosh, I guess I’ll see you guys across the line,” you know? “I’m going back to spring training tomorrow.”
Q: What is the most impactful or touching example from your High Socks For Hope relief organization?
A: When we first got started, we ended up building a house for a family that had a child with special needs, and I can just remember — this would have been like 2013, when we went down to see the family, and I was busy playing, and a house got done for them. The dad comes over and grabs me in a bear hug, so appreciative that him and his family who lost everything in [Tuscaloosa, Ala.]. … I felt like the joy that he had from just being able to have that home and like the appreciation he showed us really changed everything for me, and is part of why we continue to do what we go through High Socks.
Q: Where does that desire to help people come from?
A: I just want to be able to help, I feel like that’s for anybody. When you’ve been moved out, and your life’s become a struggle and you’re just trying to get back to normal, you just need some help, and that’s where we want to step in and that’s what High Socks is all about. I think that’s just part of who I am, if you see someone in trouble, you want to help.
Q: Did you see that example with your parents?
A: Yeah, they were always in there to help someone else. My dad’s been known to stop all the time and help someone on the side of the road and get them to where they’re going or to help a friend build something. If you needed help, it wasn’t a big deal to ask around and for us to chip in.
Q: As an Alabama guy, how neat has it been for you from afar watching Nick Saban do what he’s done?
A: Oh, I love Nick Saban. I’m very happy with what he’s done at Alabama. It makes Saturdays a lot of fun (laugh).
Q: Describe fatherhood.
A: It’s exhausting (laugh). No, it’s great. I have three children at a lot of different ages. My wife’s a saint ’cause she’s keeping all three of ’em for the next six weeks till I could see her again.
Q:. Luke is turning 11?
A: He’s funny, he’s goofy. He’s quick with a comment or quick with his feet. He’s a very nice young man. Hopefully, we can raise him right.
Q: Your daughter Violet is turning 6?
A: She’s funny and goofy. She loves to dance and loves to color and paint and do arts and crafts. She loves clothes.
Q: Everett was born last March 25. How is your diaper game?
A: I’m pretty quick on it, but I don’t do great with the blowouts, I kind of panic.
Q: Describe your wife Erin.
A: She’s my everything. She’s been with me since 2006, since we met, we moved in together 10 days later and have never been apart since. I definitely couldn’t have played Major League Baseball this long without her, and I couldn’t have turned into the person I am today without her, that’s for sure.
Q: Three dinner guests?
A: Daniel Day-Lewis, Babe Ruth, my wife.
Q: Favorite movie?
A: “Last of the Mohicans.”
Q: Favorite actor?
A: Daniel Day-Lewis.
Q: Favorite singer/entertainer?
Q: Favorite meal?
A: Probably Chipotle.
Q: How have you adapted to the pitch clock?
A: I think it’s pretty ridiculous. It’s way too fast, especially when you’re just trying to have a conversation with your catcher and you don’t have any time. That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.
Q: What would be your solution?
A: Get rid of it.
Q: How many pitchers share your view?
A: I don’t know. I imagine most people would agree with me on that one. Baseball, I don’t think, needed that much of a change. I don’t think it needed the big bases and a pitch clock coming in. It’s already got enough things that have been added to it.
Q: How does it affect a pitcher?
A: I think it’s just gonna speed up the game so fast that the fans aren’t really gonna know what’s happening … the fans in the seats.
Q: How would you describe your Major League Baseball journey?
A: It feels like it went by in a flash, to be honest. It’s been a long road, though, I would say that. It’s been moving 40-something times in the past 15, 16 years … six different organizations, a couple of stints in two organizations … just the stress of the game, it’s been a lot. I’ve seen a lot of changes go on in baseball and a lot of changes in my life. But I’m blessed to have had the career I’ve had. When I look back on it, I’m like, “Man, I wish I could have remembered or soaked in a lot more of it when I had the opportunity.”