Commentary

K-Rod, meet Yankees' David Robertson

Mets closer says he'd set up for the Bombers; doesn't he realize that job is taken?

Updated: June 30, 2011, 9:00 AM ET
By Johnette Howard | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- The red-hot Yankees and Mets kept rolling toward their Subway Series this weekend at Citi Field with wins Wednesday night, and David Robertson -- the Yankees' young middle reliever-turned-emergency-setup man -- threw another scoreless inning in the Bronx, which added to his league-leading strikeout total for relievers but did little to help Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez's oddly timed, one-man campaign to nominate himself as the Yankees' potential new eighth-inning man last week.

Even though the job is ... you know ... taken.

"I don't even know what he said," Robertson said the other day, when asked about K-Rod.

Then: "I don't really have a reaction. He can say whatever he wants."

Robertson struck out two of the four batters he faced Wednesday in the Yankees' 5-2 win over Milwaukee to give him 52 strikeouts in just 31.1 innings pitched.

[+] EnlargeDavid Robertson
AP Photo/Kathy KmonicekThe Yankees' setup role? Sorry, K-Rod -- that's Mr. Robertson's neighborhood.

Perhaps K-Rod hasn't noticed Robertson's ERA of 1.11 is now the best in the major leagues, too, for pitchers with a minimum of 30 innings pitched. Or that Yanks manager Joe Girardi has been campaigning for Robertson to make his first All-Star game, pointing out the third-year right-hander started the season as the Yanks' third or fourth option in the bullpen, and then kept pitching so spectacularly when Rafael Soriano, and then Joba Chamberlain, went down with injuries that he has not only kept moving up in the pecking order -- his place is now set.

"Roberston has been tremendous -- to me, he's an All-Star, no doubt," Girardi said.

But Rodriguez is funny -- not funny ha-ha, but funny as in strange, or even regrettable. He seems to have a case of Glavine-itis, a weird thing that seems to drive some Mets pitchers into behaving as though they'd rather be somewhere, almost anywhere, else. By the end of Tom Glavine's stay with the Mets, in that first of two straight horrible seasons in which they blew the division title to the Phillies, Glavine barely bothered to conceal how much he would've rather stayed in Atlanta.

By his disastrous end here on the last day of the 2007 season -- remember how the Mets felt good about having a battle-tested veteran like him on the mound, only to see him cough up seven first-inning runs to the Marlins to complete their historic collapse and hand the division title to the Phillies? -- the feeling about Glavine around New York was go, just go already. Get out of here and don't look back.

Especially when Glavine later said he wouldn't be haunted by the loss.

K-Rod is going to find himself evoking similar feelings if he keeps talking.

Even if he is among the Mets' leading candidates to be traded for financial reasons, it's a little unseemly for him to be trumpeting his willingness to jump ship just days before another Yanks-Mets Subway Series showdown, or in a season in which the Mets have been a pleasant surprise, battling their way through injuries and doubts to hover around .500. But he's done it twice now anyway.

A few weeks ago K-Rod publicly said he'd be willing to forgo the $17.5 million contract option that kicks in for next season if he finishes 55 games this year if some new team wants to give him a long-term contract extension instead. So when he rather grandly followed that up by telling reporters he'd also be willing to forget being a closer and be comfortable moving to the Bronx to be Mariano Rivera's setup man if the Mets wanted to ship him out by the trade deadline, what Rodriguez ignored -- in addition to Robertson's performance -- is the Yanks are the Mets' crosstown rivals.

And the two teams haven't completed a trade with each other in years.

An unidentified Yanks front-office executive had already been quoted as saying the Bombers had this much interest in K-Rod: "Zero."

Rodriguez later backtracked, saying, "I'm here with the Mets and I want to end my year here."

But he should've gotten more criticized than he was for talking about other places he'd like to play and under what conditions. For a change, the Subway Series will have a little sizzle again this weekend. And it's because of the way the Mets are playing, more than the Yankees. The Mets aren't supposed to be hovering at .500 despite a slew of injuries and clawing and fighting and dreaming of how to stay in the wild-card race. For as long as he's still here, Rodriguez would be better off to talk less and pitch better, the way Robertson is.

Like K-Rod, Robertson can sometimes turn his one-inning stints into adventures. Some nights he'll walk a few guys or cough up a few hits before striking out the side. But Robertson rarely falls off the tightrope. He's given up only one run in his past 19 appearances, a stretch that dates back six scintillating weeks. For his career, his strikeout/innings pitched ratio trails only the Phillies' Brad Lidge among active players.

"Yeah, I've been hearing some talk about the All-Star Game here and there, but I try not to pay a lot of attention to it," Robertson said Wednesday night. "I mean, I would love to go to the game. But I don't want to be disappointed if I don't."

Voting for the All-Star Game ends Thursday night and the reserves and pitchers will be chosen a few days later. That non-waiver trade deadline that K-Rod is eying rolls around on July 31. Between him and Robertson, one of them is likely to be disappointed very soon.

The odds are slim it will be Robertson.

"I'm just trying to do my job whether it's the sixth inning, seventh inning, eighth inning," Robertson said.

Everyone else is noticing, even if Rodriguez hasn't.

The Yanks already have their 2011 setup man.

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