TORONTO – From that collection of White Sox’ offseason acquisitions that created quite the buzz, closer David Robertson is the only one whose performance has anyone buzzing.
Through Sunday, Melky Cabrera was hitting .239 with three extra-base hits and Adam LaRoche was at .213 with four homers. Jeff Samardzija (4-2) has been better of late, cutting down to 4.28, and Zach Duke has pitched to a decent 3.00 ERA.
But Robertson, who signed a four-year, $46 million contract, has been money in the bank in the closer’s role with nine saves in 10 chances and a 0.98 ERA. Even Robertson, who sets the bar high for his own expectations, has to be pleased.
“I am. I’m doing what I’m expected to do,’’ he said Monday. “They gave me a great contract and a great opportunity and I’m trying to show them they made the right choice.’’
If only the Sox could have got the ball in his hand more often.
“I’m enjoying the time here, I’d just like to get more opportunities,’’ he said.
Robertson has filled the strike zone with his cutter and knuckle-curve and is averaging 14.24 strikeouts per nine innings, tied for fifth best among major league relievers. He’s always been a strikeout guy with a 12.09 rate that ranks fourth all-time behind Craig Kimbrel (14.74), Carlos Marmol (12.23) and Rob Dibble (12.17).
“Every time you look up he’s 0-2, 1-2,’’ Duke said. “He’s always ahead in the count and his stuff is as good as anybody. You can have good stuff and not have success. He commands the ball really, really well.’’
That strikeout rate, though, at 19.1 per nine innings in April, is down to 10.5 in May.
“I’m throwing less breaking balls than usual,’’ he said. “I’m trying to rely on command more and by that I mean quality pitches. That’s the name of the game, get the job done with minimal defenders. You have seven defenders behind you, let them do their jobs.’’
Robertson threw his knuckle-curve 34 percent of the time last season according to Brooks Baseball, and after using it on 32 percent of his pitches in April, he’s relying more on his cutter in May, throwing the curve at a 22-percent clip.
“He’s always thinking, always trying to get better,’’ Duke said.
“He has that no-panic attitude. If he has a bad one, and there aren’t many, he’s not going to panic and re-invent the wheel. He’ll just refine what he does well. That’s what all the great ones do.’’
Garcia exits early
Right fielder Avisail Garcia, who returned to the lineup Sunday after missing two starts with right knee inflammation, came out of the game in the second inning Monday. Garcia singled to right, and may have aggravated it diving to the bag on a throw to first by pitcher Drew Hutchison.
Garcia is day-to-day.
“Everything was good with him at first, and then I saw him limping,” Ventura said. “It looked like when Reyes hit the ball to right field [in the first inning of Monday’s 6-0 loss], he was a little tentative going into the corner, and then when he got a hit and wasn’t able to get down there on the ground ball, the double play. You have to take him out and reevaluate. Maybe the turf started wearing on him”
A first for Swirsk
Chuck Swirsky, whose most recent baseball play-by-play experience was calling minor league games in 1979, replaced Ken Harrelson in the TV booth and will man the mic alongside Steve Stone for the rest of the 11-game road trip. “I keep looking around for Joakim Noah,” Swirsky, the Bulls radio play-by-play announcer and former Toronto Raptors announcer, quipped while visiting the Sox clubhouse.