Robertson had a 1.93 ERA in Sacramento.
The road to the big leagues is never easy, but it can be even harder for a player who is selected in the 31st round in the draft. For the Oakland A’s newest reliever, however, that journey was a relatively short one. Three years after being selected in the 31st round out of Birmingham-Southern, Connor Robertson has made the major leagues. We spoke to the A’s rookie one day after his promotion.
A mere three seasons ago, Connor Robertson was setting homerun records as the DH/1B at Birmingham-Southern. Now he is in the major leagues as a member of one of the American League’s top pitching staffs. Robertson, who transitioned from slugger to reliever during his final year of college, was promoted to the big leagues from Triple-A Sacramento on Tuesday, replacing Huston Street on the A’s roster.
Robertson has had a lot of success during his minor league career, compiling a career ERA of 2.43 in 211.2 minor league innings. However, despite that success, Robertson was shocked when he received the news that he was headed to the major leagues after Monday night’s River Cats’ game in Des Moines, Iowa.
“I found out after the game [that I was being called up]. I was getting some food and our manager Tony DeFrancesco came in and said ‘Hey, we have a first-time big leaguer. Connor, you are headed to the big leagues.’ I was holding a plate of food and I almost dropped it. It was a big shock to me, but I am glad to have the chance,” Robertson said.
“I had no idea [that I was in-line for a promotion]. I had been pitching pretty good, I think, but I was really just concentrating on having a good year this year and making a good impression. Sometimes things just happen and they need somebody and hopefully I can come up here and fill-in and make an impression, get the job done and help the team out.”
Robertson had been the River Cats’ hottest reliever at the time of his promotion. After a slow start to his season, Robertson had put together a stretch of 13 consecutive outings without allowing a run. Overall, he was holding PCL hitters to a .194 batting average and he had a 1.93 ERA in 18.2 innings.
“I wasn’t throwing that well at the beginning of the season. I wasn’t getting on top of the ball and I wasn’t making good two-strike pitches. I just worked on that stuff out in the bullpen and I was able to put a few good outings together to get the confidence back and that helped out a lot,” Robertson said.
After a morning flight from Des Moines to Oakland on Tuesday, Robertson arrived at the McAfee Coliseum as a big leaguer for the first time. He indicated that his time with the major league team during spring training helped ease his nerves upon entering the clubhouse for the first time.
“[Playing in spring training] makes a big difference. I walked into the clubhouse and there were guys who I had been around just a month and a half ago and they kind of helped me out by letting me know that we do this at this time. It really helped me out a lot,” Robertson said.
“There are a bunch of really good guys on the team and everybody is there to help you out and give you congratulations, so it was great. Spring training definitely helps out as far as knowing people.”
Robertson was in the bullpen for the A’s extra-inning win against the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday. He spent his time down in the bullpen scouting the hitters and waiting for when that first call would come from manager Bob Geren.
“I paid close attention to the game to see how each hitter was doing. Is he chasing tonight, is he swinging at bad pitches, is he not, that sort of thing, in case I got the call,” Robertson said.
Although the A’s prefer to introduce their rookie pitchers in low-pressure situations, as Tuesday night’s game worked into extra innings, it appeared that Robertson might get the call in extra-innings. When the game ended, Robertson was the only available pitcher left in the A’s bullpen.
“I was down there thinking that any time could be the time. I got up a little bit and my heart was definitely pumping and I was just trying to remain calm. Hopefully tonight I’ll get in there and I’ll be able to keep everything under control,” Robertson said.