Phillies reliever David Robertson, who underwent Tommy John surgery last August, was supposed to throw off the mound for the first time on June 19 … the day the Phils’ complex in Clearwater was shut down after five Phillies players tested positive for COVID-19.
If not for that shutdown, Robertson believes he would be “very, very close” to returning, if not back already.
“I was feeling really good at the time of the shutdown,” Robertson said Sunday. “Everything was just going right for me. I think I would be very, very close, if not ready. I’m coming up on a year since I’ve had surgery and I honestly think I probably would have been ready by now. That’s the way things go. Everybody has had to deal with a lot of difficult things and I’m no different.
“I was supposed to throw off the mound for the first time the day that we got shut down in Florida. It was pretty heartbreaking. We were quarantined in Florida until we got our negative results. That was probably eight days maybe. Then we drove to Alabama and spent almost three weeks there and then came back. I know I missed almost a month of time. Then they opened up a bubble for me down there to keep my rehab going at Carpenter Complex.”
The Phillies need any version of Robertson they can get in 2020. Even at about 75 percent, Robertson would still be one of the best arms in this bullpen. The Phillies signed the former Yankee to a two-year, $23 million contract before 2019 but he made just seven appearances before the arm issues prevented him from pitching.
Robertson was supposed to be this team’s setup man or closer the last two seasons. Instead, the Phillies have been in a constant scramble to find reliable relievers with Robertson and Seranthony Dominguez missing so much time. Dominguez finally had his Tommy John surgery earlier this month.
“I don’t have a definitive timeline,” Robertson said. “I’m getting comfortable throwing all my pitches again and my arm strength is feeling really good. I haven’t thrown to any live hitters or anything. I’ve thrown some bullpens. I just started to get that crisp feeling out of a lot of pitches that I have. I hate to put a timeline on it because the last time I put a timeline on it, I feel like I just rushed myself and cost myself to have a mini-setback mentally.
“I’m thinking, at best, maybe three weeks. But that’s not a hard date. I think if I could get comfortable I could pitch at the big league level in three weeks.”
Robertson said he has gotten up to around 88 mph and has had days he felt he could hit 90. “Then there are days I throw and it’s not 88,” he said. “It’s 85, 86. It’s just part of the rehab process. Some days you feel good, some days you don’t.”
Robertson will continue his rehab at the Phillies’ complex in Lehigh Valley. If he comes out of another bullpen session feeling good, the next step would be facing live hitters.
Robertson wants to get back out there to help the Phillies but there is also a financial incentive for him. He is a free agent after the season and the best way to maximize his value would be coming back and pitching well toward the end of the season, showing teams he’s healthy enough to keep going. Given all the time missed, he’d also be a candidate this offseason for a one-year, prove-it deal.
“I am ready to be back on the mound. Watching guys play, watching this team, it’s heartbreaking not to be on it,” he said.
“I want to get back and help us make that push to get to the playoffs. I want to play more baseball. I want a chance at winning a ring. I know it’s a different format and a different season and everything, but I want to go out there and compete and I think everybody in the clubhouse wants to compete and win. We’re not just doing it just to play. We’re doing it to win.”