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Robertson: “It’s an honor to be in the conversation”

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[2]Dave Robertson isn’t a very big guy, and he doesn’t have an over-the-top personality. He’s friendly and soft-spoken, as easy to get along with as he is hard to hit. He takes the blame when he messes up, and he deflects credit when he does his job.

In that way, he’s pretty similar to the guy sitting just five lockers away in the Yankees spring training clubhouse.

“You’re talking about replacing a guy like Mariano Rivera,” Robertson said this morning, looking — as always — stunned that a massive group of reporters wanted to interview him. “I don’t know if it can ever be done. I really don’t think so.”

Robertson was never as hyped as Joba Chamberlain, and for a while he generated less prospect buzz than Mark Melancon, but if there’s a long-term Rivera successor in the current Yankees clubhouse, it just might be the escape artist from Alabama. Although Robertson said he refuses to believe that this is Rivera’s final season, it’s impossible to deny Robertson’s place on the short list of pitchers who could eventually replace Rivera in the ninth.

“It’s something I would want to do,” Robertson said. “But I’m not going to focus on that right now. I’m not really worried about it at all. All I’m worried about is the season that’s upcoming, being able to get my outs and get the ball to Mo. I’m not going to worry about it if he leaves… Those are shoes that I don’t think anybody is really going to be able to fill. You just have to hope you can step in there and hold your ground, do the best you can and hope for the best.”

One thing Robertson has noticed about Rivera: “He doesn’t chase perfection,” Robertson said. “He’s not out there always trying to get a strikeout. He can throw two pitches and have an out, maybe one pitch. I’ve seen him throw six- or seven-pitch innings. You don’t see a lot of those from me. He can go in there, make his one pitch, break a bat and get a ground ball. He doesn’t chase perfection, he just finds a way to get the outs.”

Even if he doesn’t take Rivera’s job, Robertson would like to take some of that control and composure.

“I’m going to try to throw more strikes, really cut down on my walks,” he said. “If I can do that, I can shorten my pitches in outings and not be out there throwing with runners on first and second because I walked them. Hopefully speed up the game a little bit.”

“… It’s an honor to even be in the conversation with (Rivera). It’s a long season. Last year was last year. This upcoming season could change. Anyone could possibly move into that role if he does leave. For me, I can’t worry about that. I’ve just got to focus on me and do what I can do, hope that the season turns out the way I want it to.”

Associated Press photo