It was almost exactly one year ago that David Robertson underwent Tommy John surgery, and the veteran reliever is now hoping to finally return to the mound sometime in September, the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Scott Lauber writes. Robertson has spent the past month working out and rehabbing at the Phillies’ Spring Training facility in Clearwater, and is now reporting to the club’s alternate training camp.
“I think if I could get comfortable I could pitch at the big-league level in three weeks. But that’s not a hard date,” Robertson said.
Were it not for the COVID-19 outbreak that hit the Phillies’ camp in June, Robertson might already be back on the roster. Robertson was ready to start throwing off a mound when the outbreak hit, which sent Robertson back to his home in Alabama after the Clearwater facility was closed, costing him about a month of preparation time.
After throwing multiple bullpen sessions, Robertson will face live batters for the first time at the alternate camp. His velocity isn’t all the way back, as Robertson said he “could probably hit 90” miles per hour on his fastball but he hasn’t topped 88mph during his bullpens. While the right-hander has never been a flame-thrower, Robertson’s fastball has averaged 92mph during his 12 MLB seasons.
A late-season return would give Robertson a chance to salvage something from what has been a disastrous stint in Philadelphia. After signing a two-year, $23MM free agent deal in the 2018-19 offseason, Robertson pitched in only seven games before being sidelined by a flexor strain, which eventually led to his Tommy John procedure. It was a major blow for a pitcher who has been known for his durability, as Robertson averaged 65 innings per season from 2010-18.
Robertson’s contract contains a $12MM club option for 2021, though that will almost surely be bought out for $2MM. As such, banking a few innings and pitching well in September would give Robertson at least some type of free agent platform for the winter, though it will likely be difficult for a recent TJ patient entering his age-36 season to land a guaranteed contract. A good showing over the Phillies’ last few games could help Robertson make the case (perhaps personally, since he represented himself in his last foray into free agency) that he can return to his old All-Star form now that he is healthy.