Nate = Crazier Than Dontrelle

Our hero has finally lost it. Check out Beck's story. Props to Samara for beating me to this and doing a much better job at it than I could. But, I can still have fun...

LAKELAND, Fla. -- The last time Nate Robertson started a season in the Tigers bullpen, he ended up winning back a spot and starting a five-year stint in Detroit's rotation. This time around, he's taking his relief role as a sign of a possible end.

Thank you, Jeebus!

While Robertson believes he can still be an effective starting pitcher, his remarks in the Tigers clubhouse at Joker Marchant Stadium on Thursday morning clearly made it sound like he doesn't think it's going to happen in Detroit. If he can't start here, he gave the impression he wouldn't mind starting elsewhere.

On behalf of everyone here at DesigNate Robertson, from the interns and the secretaries, all the way up to the executives, I would like to say...

Hopefully, that works better for me than it did for Bush.

"I think the cycle of a player's time in certain places, it comes and it goes," Robertson said.

Just like Ripken, Whitaker, Trammell, Jeter, Rivera, etc. But then again, they were good. You are not. Your cycle was up two years ago. Instead, you got a $21 million contract. Quit whining.

"This is my seventh year in the organization, and maybe my time here is nearing its end. And I'm fine with that. I'll tell you what, this is a first-class organization, and I appreciate everything that's been done for me.

Don't forget what they will continue to do for you. You'll collect, I believe, $17 million the next two years to take the spot that rightfully belongs to Clay Rapada.

"I don't go home and say, 'Man, I feel like these guys are really sticking it to me.' But at the same time, I'm 31 years old and I've got to think about my career."

This is where I start to get irritated. At the end of this contract, you will be 33 years old and have $17 million more in the bank. That's a hell of a career. In the BEST season that you've ever had, you were a .500 pitcher. There is NO REASON for you to have the contract that you have. So appreciate it and if you don't like it, PITCH BETTER AND EARN YOUR SPOT BACK!

Look, it's not the same situation, but Jay Cutler can get away with this, and I'm not just saying that because I'm a Bears fan. (Woo hoo!) Cutler is a Top 5 player in the NFL at his position. Like you, Nate, he wasn't happy and also, his team wasn't a winner. He wanted out, and guess what? Other teams WANTED him! No one wants you! Not for the $17 million remaining that you somehow sucked out of Double D! Shut up and pitch better!

"I can be very productive as a starting pitcher."

2007: 9-13, 4.76 ERA, 199 hits allowed, 177.2 innings pitched.
2008: 7-11, 6.35 ERA, 218 hits allowed, 168.2 innings pitched.

If by "productive", you mean "bloody awful", then I guess we agree.

"That's what I believe. I think I can go out there and be durable, take the ball every fifth day, give you a chance to win as a starting pitcher in the big leagues. There's no doubt in my mind."

My four year old believes in the Tooth Fairy. Tom Cruise believes in Scientology. Katie Holmes believes that Tom Cruise is straight. Belief and fact are two different things.

The Tigers obviously feel differently at this point. And the response from manager Jim Leyland provided serious doubt that Robertson is going anywhere.

"I don't want to start on a negative note here," Leyland said. "I think Nate Robertson has an excellent opportunity to be a huge part of our ballclub."

If I had a nickel for every time I've heard The Marlboro Man use this line now on guys he wants gone...

"You don't always finish how you start. But at the same time, the best way to get yourself in the position that you want to be is prove that you're supposed to be in that position."

Holy hell...we agree. Earn your spot back, Nate. Shut up.

"Or, as Leyland also said, "We don't end anyone's career in the organization if we think it's best for our team that they make contributions."

The sound you just heard was Gary Sheffield and his .387 Spring OBP banging his head on a wall. (Good luck with the Mets, Gary. I'm still with ya.)

Robertson spent Spring Training competing for what was supposed to be one rotation spot but ended up being two when Jeremy Bonderman had a setback that sent him to the disabled list. Swingman Zach Miner and 20-year-old Rich Porcello won those jobs Wednesday, while Bonderman is expected to be back within a few weeks barring further issues.

And most likely, gone again with a matter of days. But I'll pick on Bondo another day. Back to our story...

The bright side in Robertson's performance were the steps he made towards becoming a more effective pitcher. His 6.35 ERA last year was the highest for any American League pitcher with at least 162 innings. His 119 earned runs allowed led the league, and he was briefly pulled from the rotation in August before finishing out with a series of September starts.

Pitching coach Rick Knapp suggested to Robertson early in camp that he should "pitch more left-handed," meaning mixing pitches and working in and out of the strike zone more. Robertson responded with back-to-back effective outings before a double-play throw sprained his left thumb with little more than a week left in camp.

And those two good outings? Against the AA or AAA caliber lineups that Houston and Washington put out. Here's a small list of other guys that could pitch well against those lineups this Spring: Dan Petry (today), one-armed Dave Dravecky, my mom, Gary Sheffield, that annoying opera singing vendor at Comerica, and Chuck Hernandez. As you can see, I wasn't too impressed.

Robertson returned from the thumb injury for one last outing, this one a long-relief outing Tuesday. He gave up five runs on six hits in three innings, including two home runs.

Against Washington. Hee hee.

"If you look at Spring Training, the only [thing] I think I graded myself badly was when I put people on base [with walks]," Robertson said. "The balls weren't being driven up until that last outing, when I gave up a couple long balls. For the most part, keeping the ball on the ground has been something I've been doing pretty well. Taking all that and applying that to be an effective starter in the big leagues, I think that I'm on track for where I need to be. You don't just lose the ability to know how to pitch.

Yet, somehow, you have. This Spring, you've gone 2-1 with a 5.52 ERA in 14.2 innings. You allowed 16 hits and 9 walks. You haven't looked decent since '06. Every scout says you're done. Your velocity is gone. Your slider doesn't slide. And we're paying you $17 million more and let $14 million of Sheffield with his still high OBP walk.

"Again, you have to take some of the experience. You learn a lot of stuff up in the big leagues. Starting Monday, this stuff goes on the back of your baseball card. All that [Spring Training] stuff doesn't mean anything."

Bull. It doesn't mean anything to Verlander, Galarraga, or Jackson. They had jobs no matter what they did. You knew that to make the rotation, you needed to pitch well. And you didn't. Don't make excuses. Ask Porcello or Perry if Spring Training meant anything to them and their careers.

Leyland said he called Robertson into his office to explain the situation before he called in Porcello and reliever Ryan Perry to tell them they had won jobs.

"In my conversation with [Robertson]," Leyland said, "I explained to him the importance of the entire pitching staff, the importance of him accepting the situation with a tremendous attitude, and the bulldog approach that he showed me before at times to take this and run with it. I'm well aware that Nate Robertson wants to start. I think that he believes he's a starting pitcher. I believe that myself if it's the Nate Robertson of 2006."

Amen, Jimbo. We agree again. Tell you what, Nate. Call Barry Zito. He was good in 2006, too. Between the two of you, you can buy our own team and you guys can pitch for them. But we're concerned with today, my friend.

The Robertson of 2009, however, is going to begin in the bullpen. His guaranteed contract, which will pay him $17 million through next season, would be an impediment to any deal.

And an impediment to Clay Rapada...or the success of the Tiger bullpen.

"I'm going to continue to work hard and prepare myself, wherever that road may take me."

Hopefully, it'll be here.

I've always been pretty solid in believing that there's a plan for me somewhere, whether it be here or somewhere else. As long as you're healthy, then you have an opportunity. One person's opinion on you is going to vary from another's in this game. I've been around long enough to see that.

Opinions are like a-holes. Everyone's got them. And you, sir, are being an a-hole about this. I'm an expert.

"I'm going to obviously do my very best to be a good teammate to these guys. I've been around a lot of these guys for a while. I think it just comes down to what I think about myself, and that's what I stick with."

Nate, no one, I think, will ever question you being a good teammate. You started that whole Gumtime craze in '06 and I've never heard a bad thing about your attitude before this. You and your wife are active in Detroit charities and are good people. As I've said here before, I'm rooting for you, believe it or not. I think most Tiger fans are. But stuff like this is going to turn people against least the ones that your performance already hasn't.