As the crowd rose to its feet Friday night in anticipation of the final out, and as some players in both dugouts at Progressive Field started inching closer to the clubhouse, Daniel Robertson took his place in the batter’s box.
His Texas Rangers were trailing badly. The hitters ahead of him had made outs on a combined four pitches. Four pitches later, the crowd was still on its feet waiting for the 27th out and Robertson was at first base after a single through the middle.
A pitch later, Robertson was at second after charging into scoring position on defensive indifference. Three pitches later, he was charging home on an Elvis Andrus single that made the score Cleveland 12, Rangers 2.
That’s how Robertson plays as an extra outfielder on a team decimated by injuries, and he was acquired in April to plug a roster spot until injured players returned.
Most of them never returned, more were injured or reinjured, and, with the exception of eight games in May, Robertson has been a Rangers roster fixture.
As the Rangers evaluate players the rest of the season, they know what they have in Robertson. The career minor-leaguer can, indeed, make positive contributions in the majors, but he’s never going to be much of a difference-maker.
If he wants to remain in the club’s plans beyond 2014, he has to play as he did in his brief appearance Friday and his start Saturday in the Rangers’ 2-0 loss to the Indians.
Be prepared when called upon. Play hard.
“That’s the way he plays,” manager Ron Washington said. “Not everybody can do that. Some of it isn’t in their DNA. He’s a live wire. He plays within himself. Robertson knows what he is and who he is and how his success is obtained.
“He’s a major league player. He can do some things.”
Robertson made a nice running catch to help defuse an Indians rally in the fourth, and he reached on a two-out walk in the fifth and a two-out single in the seventh that accounted for one of the Rangers’ five hits.
Right-hander Miles Mikolas rebounded from a sluggish outing last weekend by allowing two runs on five hits in seven innings. He and Robertson did their part, though Robertson struck out to end the game.
The Rangers were 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position. They missed three times in the sixth before the Indians scored two in their half of the inning, and three more times with a man at second in the ninth.
“He pitched really, really, really well. It’s too bad we couldn’t score any runs for him,” Washington said. “We created some opportunities, and we didn’t deliver. That’s been our issue.”
Robertson’s job is to know how to do whatever is asked of him, mostly to pinch-run in a key spot, sub in as a defensive upgrade to finish off a close game or enter in a blowout to give a veteran time off his feet.
He has been a starter against most left-handed pitchers of late, though the need to see how the left-handed-hitting Jim Adduci can fare against port-siders might cut into Robertson’s starts.
Neither is regarded as anything more than a No. 4 or No. 5 outfielder, neither is considered as talented as Craig Gentry, and there is no guarantee that either will be anything more than an outfielder at Triple A Round Rock in 2015.
Robertson, though, believes that he is a big league player.
“My style belongs up here,” he said. “It fits. I’m not scared.”
In Washington’s book, not being scared is the first hurdle a rookie has to overcome. It’s a familiar refrain from Washington, who was a bench player, a confident, well-prepared utility infielder who at times would go more than a week without so much as an at-bat.
When he finally got a chance, he had to produce and play with energy. So, when asked if Robertson reminded him of anybody, Washington raised his hand.
He has spoken with Robertson about what it takes to be a bench player in the majors.
“From the conversations that we’ve had, he was about as professional as it gets,” Robertson said. “Understanding what he did well and perfecting what he did well. It’s up to the guys who make the decisions to figure out where you belong.
“Wherever I fit is where I fit, but it’s my job to perfect what I do.”
Depending on who is added in the off-season, that might not be enough to keep him around in 2015. But the Rangers know what they have in Robertson.
And when he gets a chance, he’s going to be prepared. He’s going to bust his tail. He’s going to play to the best of his abilities. His manager has to like that.
“From what I’m learning about this game and all the people I’ve come in contact with is there’s only one way to play this game,” Robertson said. “The score doesn’t dictate how you play. You dictate how much energy you’re going to give. I play with a lot of energy. That’s the only way I know how to play.”