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Robertson draws tall order

Robertson draws tall order

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ST. LOUIS -- It has been two weeks and a couple thousand miles since Nate Robertson last pitched in a game, but when the Detroit left-hander makes the start at Busch Stadium on Tuesday night for Game 3 of the World Series, he is confident the downtime won't mean a rough time on the mound.

"Actually, the rest that I got these last couple of weeks has been great," said Robertson, who last pitched Oct. 10 in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series at Oakland. "We were kind of talking about it the other day with Spring Training adding on innings, I'm looking at somewhere around 240 innings. So it's nice to have a little bit of a break.

"During the All-Star break, I think I had about a 10-day layoff and I responded OK in that start."

Robertson has thrown a couple of side sessions since the start in Oakland. He said Monday he feels fine, is ready to go and is looking forward to making his first World Series start.

"I feel pretty good," Robertson said. "In my side two days ago it went really well. So I don't think there will be anything that would be where two weeks is going to affect me that much."

Detroit manager Jim Leyland hopes Robertson is right. And yet a long layoff didn't help Detroit rookie Justin Verlander, who took the loss in Game 1.

"I don't know what we're going to get," Leyland said. "We could get a fastball with a little bit more velocity than normal, but maybe not as good control. Or we could run into a situation like we did with Verlander, which was a shock to me -- the fastball was not there, which really totally surprised me, shocked me.

"So I guess it's just each individual. I don't know what to expect from Nate [Tuesday] night, I really don't. I think I'm going to get a good performance, but you really never know for sure. But I will say this, too, we have had some simulated action. He wasn't involved in it particularly, but we have had some of that. And we've had extra bullpen sessions with these guys, to try to keep them as sharp as possible. But in all fairness, there's nothing like game conditions. I really don't know what to expect."

The long layoff isn't the only obstacle facing Robertson and the Tigers. Reigning National League Cy Young Award winner Chris Carpenter will start for the Cardinals, continuing Robertson's string of drawing unenviable assignments.

Robertson's first start of the postseason came at Yankee Stadium against New York and 19-game winner Chien-Ming Wang in Game 1 of the AL Division Series.

Robertson's next start came against Oakland's 16-game winner Barry Zito in Game 1 of the ALCS at McAfee Coliseum.

Counting his final regular-season start against Toronto's 15-game winner Ted Lilly, Robertson will have gone up against four pitchers in as many starts who won a combined 65 games during the regular season. It will also be his third consecutive postseason start on the road.

Somebody has to take the tough assignments. For the Tigers, that somebody has been Robertson, time and again.

"This is my third road start in the playoffs," Robertson said. "It's not that I'm worried about any of that. I'll be ready to go and look forward to it."

Robertson, 1-1 with a 5.91 ERA in the postseason after going 13-13 in the regular season, pitched five scoreless innings on six hits at Oakland to help send the Tigers on their way to the sweep of the A's.

The venue doesn't matter to him. Robertson just doesn't get rattled no matter who he's facing, be it the other team's ace or a no-room-for-errors lineup like the Yankees.

"If you can pitch at Yankee Stadium you can pitch in front of crowds anywhere," Robertson said. "I'm sure it will be a sea of red, they're great fans there, but I have to concentrate on my game, not who I'm going against or anything else."

The Cardinals and Carpenter are another new challenge, and Robertson is hoping the experience he gained facing tough road competition in the first two rounds of the playoffs will serve him well in St. Louis.

A key for him will be how well he holds down the right-handed hitters in the Cardinals lineup. Robertson led the AL against limiting left-handed batters to a .181 average, while right-handed hitters batted .284 against him this season.

The Cardinals, of course, are led by perhaps the most dangerous right-handed hitter in baseball -- first baseman Albert Pujols -- and have other dangerous right-handed hitters like third baseman Scott Rolen.

"They're all big-league hitters," Robertson said. "You have to know what you're trying to do out there, respect hitters and make your pitches. Just like with Frank [Thomas] and the A's, there are guys in certain situations that you might want to be a little more careful with.

"But again, you can't focus on one hitter and then lay off the other ones, because [Yadier] Molina's probably not your scripted hero in that lineup, but he was [Thursday] night [in Game 7 of the NLCS]. It's going out there, having an idea and making pitches."

And hoping he can once again find a way to trump an ace.

Jim Molony is a writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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