As we count down to Opening Day, Wallace Matthews and Andrew Marchand will answer 14 for '14 -- the top 14 questions facing the 2014 New York Yankees. The series will run until the eve of the first pitch between the Yankees and Astros on Tuesday, April 1, and will end with both Matthews and Marchand making their predictions for the season.
Question: Will David Robertson have a smooth transition into the Yankees' closer role?
Andrew Marchand: If Robertson doesn’t get off to a quick start as a closer, he could be in trouble. If he fails early, he won’t be able to rebound, right? Garbage!
That might be a narrative some write, but it is not true. Look no further than the man he replaced, Mariano Rivera. In 1997, when Rivera took over as the full-time closer, he blew three of his first six save chances. He ultimately blew what would turn out be a career-high nine saves and gave up Sandy Alomar Jr.’s homer in the ALDS.
So it is not how you start, but how you finish. Robertson has the stuff to be a closer and I believe the demeanor, too. Yes, he won’t have Rivera’s safety net anymore, but I think he will transition well. When you talk about replacing Rivera for one season, it is difficult but not monumental. Rafael Soriano did it. Duplicating Rivera’s career seems close to impossible, but the Yankees are just worrying about 2014 -- and I think Robertson will be fine.
Wallace Matthews: It depends on your definition of "smooth," I suppose. Nothing is ever too smooth when Robertson is on the mound. He creates his own jams and usually -- but not always -- gets out of them. That is the antithesis of Rivera, who was the ultimate no-drama closer. So the ninth innings at Yankee Stadium will be very different this season, and for the first time, really, in almost 20 years. The days of heading into the ninth confident of a win with a one-run lead are over.
This is not to say Robertson won't do a terrific job. I think he will. Let's not forget that in 2011, he was by far the most difficult pitcher to hit or score on in the Yankees' bullpen and he was nearly as good in 2012 and 2013. So he certainly has the stuff and I believe, the mindset to do the job.
But smooth? I'm not sure that word is in Robertson's vocabulary. Effective, yes. Smooth? Rarely.