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Ladner’s Robson Returns to Roots

As Vancouver Canadians pitching coach Jim Czajkowski hinted at during media day, Ladner native and 2013 C’s legend Tom Robson arrived home this week to continue his rehab from Tommy John surgery.  On a similar note, I returned to the Nat after three weeks of trying to pickle my liver in England.  Sure, most would probably be more excited about Tom’s return to the Nat, but there may have been one or two to see yours truly back.

Anyhooo…….on to the game.

His start against the Emeralds was Tom’s fourth since being activated post surgery, after having pitched four and two thirds for the Gulf Coast League Jays over the past couple of weeks (interestingly two of those appearances were pre-July 15th which was his one year surgery anniversary, the usual Jays demarcation date for letting their pitchers get back on the bump) Robson works as quickly as I remember, standing to the first base side of the rubber, a smooth load triggers an explosive arm action with a slight bit of head whip.

Through the first couple of innings he threw mainly fastballs starting in the low 90s but was soon touching 95 regularly.  If he missed it was generally down which is always a good sign.  He only threw a couple of curveballs in the first, missing badly with the first one, getting out in front of it.

He threw more breaking balls as the start wore on. Most were pretty ordinary but they did get better.  Given he struggled to command his curve at times pre-surgery I’m not all that surprised it’s not exactly where it needs to be yet.

I asked him about the curve post game as he had experimented throwing a more ‘traditional’ offering in 2014 after using primarily a spike curve earlier in his career.

“I still throw a little bit of both, the curve ball is a real feel pitch, one day you’ll have it and one you won’t.  Sometimes you just need to keep throwing it in hopes you get it later on in the game.  Today I didn’t have a great feel for it at all but the break was there so I kept throwing it.”

I was curious — and this is in relation to a recent fangraphs article talking about changes in Jeff Hoffman‘s delivery which I hope to delve more into at a later time — if Robson was forced to make some mechanical tweaks post-op.

“Little changes, obviously I’ve always thrown a little across my body which is something we need to keep an eye on.  Changeup is a big thing, always staying on top of it as getting underneath it can cause a lot of stress on your elbow.  Little things like that, although they sound little, trying to repeat them is awkward and stressful, taking a lot of time to master”

As the Ladner native’s line showed, going 3 innings giving up zero hits with five punch outs, he can dominate at this level with just his fastball.  It’s when he moves up a level or two when he’ll need some improvement from his secondary offerings.

Speaking of which neither Tom nor C’s manager John Schneider, when asked, had any idea on how long Tom will be a Canadian.  Robson was obviously thrilled to be up here, having thought he’d be in Florida for at least 3 more weeks.  Can’t see why, he only gets to live at home, have 30 of his friends and family in attendance and play in front of 6,000+ fans in Vancouver.  As opposed to pitching in front of four in the middle of a Florida summer.

He’ll be built up incrementally.  Last night he was on 50 pitches or three innings, whatever came first.  He ended up throwing 37 in total.  Robson hopes to be at the same level of Clinton Hollon, 85 or so pitches, by the end of the season.

Moving from one 4th round selection to another, the Jays 2015 pick Carl Wise had an interesting night.  It was his second straight multi-hit game which is encouraging after a sluggish start to his pro career.  He did have a few brain cramps though, getting doubled up after his first single on a ball that was 50/50 at best while he was hit trying to move from second to third his second go round by a sharp Earl Burl III ground ball.

In neither situation should Wise have been on the move.  Defensively, he made a few nice plays but was also sluggish covering third on one short passed ball.

As Clayton McCullough used to say, which Schneider re-iterated last night, with college guys it’s always difficult to get a proper read on them post their long college season.  Wait until they get a full spring training in.

In other notes.

When I spoke to Schneider at media day, he said 2014 first rounder Max Pentecost was probably two to three weeks away from a return.  Throwing at about 90 feet.  Unfortunately Robson brought some bad news with him, saying once he got to 120 feet he’d had a setback and been shut down again.

Both seemed to think it was only a minor issue but with two shoulder surgeries on the docket and inability to throw from 120 feet you have to a bit concerned.  With July nearing its conclusion I can’t see Max being assigned this season.  I know hindsight is 20/20 but it’s a bit of a gutpunch opening up the Buffalo Bisons boxscores and seeing Nats shortstop Trea Turner, who many had linked to the Jays but fell to the Padres at 13, has already made it to triple-A.

The Jays are being their usually tight-lipped selves on this injury, with Schneider only learning of the setback from Robson.  To that end, unless we see another player here that’s been at the complex recently, I’m not sure how many updates we’ll get going forward.

After, at one point, seemingly having two staffs of pitchers in Florida re-habbing from Tommy John I was racking my brain, wondering if Tom’s assignment meant there were now none.

As my brain no longer really works, I just asked him.  He said Jordan Romano, another Canadian from Markham, Ontario and Tom’s roommate went under the knife this past spring.  Apparently the 2014 10th round pick had come into camp throwing hard and was looking good prior to the surgery.

Robson told me he was one to look out for next season and given the passport I’d guess we’ll see him hear at some point.

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