Baltimore — Jacob Robson went to high school in Windsor, right across the Detroit border — a 15-minute drive give or take depending on traffic. He was a regular at Comerica Park growing up, even scored tickets to Game 2 of the 2006 World Series.
But as much as he dreamed of donning the Old English D and roaming that spacious outfield himself, especially after the Tigers drafted him in the eighth round in 2016, it was beginning to feel unreachable. When the Tigers told him this spring that he’d be starting the season back in Double A, after he’d had a productive year in Triple A in 2019 and played winter ball in both the Dominican and Australia — well, darn, what a kick in the pants.
“Honestly, I’ve been pretty down at some points and I’ve been pretty high at other points,” said Robson, a speedy, athletic 26-year-old outfielder. “It’s the age-old thing, you can’t get too high or get too low. It’s a battle and I’m not saying I’m on top of it. It’s new every day.”
So imagine the thrill Wednesday night when the call finally came that after kicking around in the system for five years, he was going to The Show. The Tigers purchased Robson’s contract from Toledo to replace Niko Goodrum, who was put on the injured list with a groin strain.
“Baseball is an amazing game,” Robson said. “It can be brutal and it can be rewarding. I’m grateful I’m being rewarded right now.”
Robson has been invited to Tigers big-league camp the last three seasons and in two of them, he was injured and unable to compete. One year, he was knocked out by a foul ball, literally, while he was sitting in the dugout.
This past spring, he was pushed back by the signing of Robbie Grossman as well as the Rule 5 drafting of Akil Baddoo.
“I have to manage my emotions every day no matter what happens,” Robson said. “A focus for me to help get me through tough times is not to let the results dictate my mood or dictate who I am when I come to the field every day. It’s more of a big-picture view and not letting one bad day, one bad week or even one bad month change who I am when I come to the field.”
Robson didn’t play in 2020, shut out with the rest of minor league baseball by the pandemic. He decided to use the time to revamp his swing mechanics. He worked to simplify his approach and eliminate some of the excess movement.
“I’m a relatively athletic person,” he said. “I don’t think I’m NFL wide receiver-athletic but I’m pretty athletic. And I think my natural swing worked against me a little bit. So I sort of cleaned things up to have less movement and give myself more time at the plate.
“When my mechanics are good, good things tend to happen.”
Robson, who played on Team Canada earlier this season, responded to his Double-A assignment at Erie by hitting .424 with a 1.243 OPS. He was quickly promoted to Toledo, where he was hitting .275 with a .397 on-base percentage and .830 OPS.
“Last night I was reflecting on this. I was in Triple A a few years ago and I’d had some success and I started thinking about being called up and what would happen if I got called up,” he said, referring to 2019 when the Tigers went through eight different outfielders, none of them named Robson. “I just feel like now I’m very prepared and very ready. That’s the way I am going into it.
“I just hadn’t played enough baseball at that time. Everyone’s timing is different and I’m glad my time is now.”
Manager AJ Hinch said Robson will make his first big-league start Friday at Comerica Park against the Indians.
“It’s a great story and a great reminder to our minor league players and other players around the league that anything can happen,” Hinch said. “A few things had to happen to open a door or two and he had to perform well.”
The Tigers were hit with a flurry of injuries to outfielders in this series with the Orioles. Baddoo and Derek Hill went down on one play on Tuesday, and Goodrum, just back from a long IL stint, injured his groin running out a two-run double.
“Rewarding players, getting guys up here when they’ve earned it — the surprise ones are sometimes the most fun,” Hinch said. “We’re all anticipating the top prospects. The road’s been paved for a lot of those guys. But not every road is smooth. Jake’s perseverance, his performance — his name was called.
“Now he’s forever going to be able to call himself a big-leaguer. This could last a few days, it could last a few years. It’s his opportunity to make his mark at this level.”
Around the horn
To clear a spot on the 40-man roster, the Tigers moved lefty Matthew Boyd to the 60-day injured list. The move is largely procedural and doesn’t impact Boyd’s timetable for return. He’s already been on the injured list for 56 days. He was scheduled to make his first rehab start with Toledo Thursday.
… Hinch said right-hander Jose Urena (groin) is on pace to make his first rehab start with Toledo on Tuesday. He and Boyd, barring any setback, will pitch on that same day.
On deck: Indians
► Series: Three games at Comerica Park, Detroit
► First pitch: Friday — 7:10 p.m.; Saturday — 6:10 p.m.; Sunday — 1:10 p.m.
► TV/radio: Friday BSD/950; Saturday-Sunday BSD/97.1
► Probables: Friday — RHP Zach Plesac (6-4, 4.84) vs. LHP Tyler Alexander (2-1, 4.35); Saturday — TBD vs. RHP Wily Peralta (3-2, 3.48); Sunday — RHP Triston McKenzie (1-5, 5.66) vs. TBD
► Plesac, Indians: He’ll be looking to wash the bad taste away from his start against the Tigers last Sunday. The Tigers got him for five runs (four earned) in four innings. He walked three, two of them scoring on Derek Hill’s first career home run.
► Alexander, Tigers: He’s coming off his best start of the season. He blanked the Indians on four singles over 5⅓ innings last Saturday, his longest outing since 2019. He threw 23 cutters at the Indians. The six that were put in play generated weak contact (81.5 mph). His change-up was also effective against the nine right-handed hitters Cleveland stacked against him.