- Mike Mazzeo, ESPN Staff Writer
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He was wrong.
"Joe started yelling 'Robbie! Robbie!' in the dugout, and of course I'm thinking it's Cano," Robertson said. "And then he says, 'David Robertson!' And I'm like, 'Oh god!' He told me, 'I've got some bad news.' And I'm like, 'Oh man. What'd I do now?'
"He said, 'You're gonna have to change your plans for the All-Star break, you're going to Arizona.'"
As he was telling the story to reporters after the Yankees capped off the first half of the 2011 season with a 1-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday afternoon, Robertson couldn't help but reveal a wide grin. The 26-year-old never thought he'd be going to his first All-Star Game in Phoenix -- especially a day before the festivities were set to begin. But Rays left-hander David Price backed out with turf toe on his left foot, affording Robertson the opportunity to be added to the American League roster.
"I was pretty excited," said Robertson, who has emerged as a dominant force out of the Yankees' bullpen. "I couldn't believe it. I didn't think it would come this late. I'm really excited to go."
The Yankees had been politicking for Robertson, who ranks second in the major leagues among pitchers that have thrown at least 35 innings in ERA (1.27) and first in the American League in strikeouts (56), to be chosen. But when the player and managerial selections were revealed, the University of Alabama product was left out.
"I'm a little surprised," Robertson said. "It seems like this whole season has kind of crept up on me. And now to this point, I'm one of the fortunate guys that gets to go to the All-Star team and be part of something special."
Left-hander CC Sabathia, who was also added to the team but elected not to go since he pitched a complete-game, four-hit shutout on Sunday afternoon, paid Robertson the ultimate compliment.
"I'm excited for him, young guy, he's pitched unbelievable," Sabathia, a 13-game winner going into the break, said. "He's really been the best reliever in baseball this year if you look at his numbers. He definitely deserves to go. We're all excited for him."
Robertson was all ready to go on a peaceful vacation in Connecticut with his wife, Erin.
He said he wanted to do some fishing. Instead, he just might be doing some pitching.
"She was really excited when I called her," Robertson said. "She said 'Really? What do I have to do to get us ready?'"
Robertson didn't even know when his flight was to leave. He hadn't gotten that far yet.
But Robertson is well-adept at adjusting on the fly.
He started the 2011 season as the Yankees' sixth-inning guy. But right-handers Rafael Soriano and Joba Chamberlain both suffered injuries, so Robertson was thrust into the eighth-inning role, a role he's handled like a wily veteran.
"I'm just trying to hang with everyone else that's pitching well in our bullpen," Robertson said. "I feel like I'm throwing a little harder and being more competitive than I normally have."
Robertson compiled a 5.82 ERA out of the Yankees bullpen during his first season in pinstripes in 2008. But he put up a 3.30 ERA in 2009 and followed that up with a 3.82 ERA in 2009, even earning the nickname "Houdini" in the playoffs for his ability to get crucial outs in key situations.
"I don't want to lose," Robertson said. "For me, I'm going to give it everything I've got to get out of those situations with runners on base. Whether it's getting a groundout or strike out, I don't care. I want to get the ball to the next guy, which is normally (Mariano Rivera)."
With a blazing fastball that's often clocked in the upper 90s and a heavy curveball, Robertson figures to be a vital cog in the Yankees' bullpen for some time.
"I'd pretty much given up on the All-Star Game," Robertson said. "I figured if it hadn't happened by now, it's not gonna happen."
As it turns out, it did.
Mike Mazzeo is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.
2dKevin Van Valkenburg