MESA, Ariz. — David Robertson keeps his suitcases within arm’s length. Whether he’s getting ready to leave spring training and join Team USA for the World Baseball Classic, or perhaps moving to another team in a trade, the White Sox closer can’t be feeling very grounded these days.
“Nothing you can do about it — that’s the thing,’’ Robertson said of trade rumors. “If we get moved, we get moved. Just another time for us to pack up everything and
go somewhere else for a short per-iod of time and move again. It is what it is.”
Robertson, the subject of hot trade rumors leading up to spring training, was converged upon by reporters when pitchers and catchers reported two weeks ago. The contending Washington Nationals are in need of bullpen help, the Sox are rebuilding, and Robertson has $12 million and $13 million of salary remaining on the final two years of his contract.
The chatter has leveled off somewhat, but Robertson said he’s sure the rumors have affected his wife, Erin, more than she’s letting on. Still, the couple, who are active in the community with charity work, including Robertson’s High Socks For Hope effort, know this comes with the territory.
“I like it here,” Robertson said. “We’re settled in. We have a good group of guys, a good chance to win. If this is a so-called rebuilding year, I want to be a part of it. If they move me, they move me.”
Perhaps Robertson will stick around longer than most thought. The Nationals, who had missed on closers Kenley Jansen and Mark Melancon, signed Joe Blanton for $4 million on Tuesday. Blanton isn’t a closer, but he does add needed depth to the back end of manager Dusty Baker’s bullpen.
Robertson has pitched to ERAs of 3.41 and 3.47, respectively, in his two seasons with the Sox — not shut-down production. But he has 71 saves in 85 opportunities and a career 2.97 ERA and is averaging 11.9 strikeouts per nine innings in his career.
In his first outing of the spring Sunday, he pitched a scoreless fourth inning. Because of his prep work for the WBC, “I’m definitely a few weeks ahead of schedule,’’ he said. “Normally I wouldn’t even dare pitch in a game in February.
“As a reliever, you only need a handful of outings to get it ready for the season, because if you can’t figure it out in five or six outings, well . . . .”
The WBC might serve as a nice distraction. Robertson and others affected by trade rumors — Jose Quintana, to name another — just go about their business.
“These guys, they’re professionals,” Sox manager Rick Renteria said. “They’re more focused on getting ready to perform.”
Trade or no trade, one thing Robertson knows for sure is his participation for the U.S. in the WBC.
“I’m excited. It’s going to be a lot of fun,” he said.
He’s scheduled to pitch Wednesday, possibly his last outing for the Sox, before heading out next week. Sox pitching coach Don Cooper has accommodated Robertson and the other Sox WBC pitchers — Quintana (Colombia), Nate Jones (U.S.) and Miguel Gonzalez (Mexico) — so that their preparation lines up with the Sox’ pitching schedule.
“I’ll try to make [the next outing] a little smoother,” Robertson said.
Knowing which team he’ll be pitching for this season would make his life a little smoother, but so it goes in the life of a baseball player.
“There’s nothing I can do about it,” he said.
Follow me on Twitter @CST_soxvan.