The 30-year-old has never made it this far in spring training with any big league club. Now he’s on the doorstep of breaking camp in the majors with a team projected to win the World Series.
“It’s a 50/50 shot: You either make it or you don’t,” said Robinson. “I’m trying not to think about it. It’s part of the game, it’s how it goes. You can’t let it get in your head because if you do you’re just gonna press and then you won’t play to your full potential. Just gonna go out and do what I always do and let whatever happens happen.”
The Nats have given Robinson more opportunities by far than he’s ever had before in spring training. His 26 games played and 49 at-bats are team highs in Grapefruit League play. The 6-foot-5, 225-lb. Robinson has delivered, hitting .327 with two homers, a triple, five doubles and eight RBIs.
“Nothing special,” said Robinson. “Just go out there and see the ball and hit the ball. Slow the game down and just go with it.”
It may sound like modesty, but Robinson is a career .302 hitter in eight years in the minors and last year batted .312 with 18 homers, 31 doubles, five triples and 80 RBIs in 119 games at Triple-A Albuquerque. However, he’s only had two brief stints in the majors. The Royals called him up for four games in 2012 and he had a cup of coffee with the Dodgers last season in nine contests. Robinson was 3-for-10 as a pinch-hitter in those opportunities.
Nationals manager Matt Williams is looking for a left-handed bat to come off the bench with some pop. In his minor league career and this year in the exhibition season, Robinson has shown that he might be the guy.
“He’s an athlete,” said Williams. “He’s a big man and, with that, brings some power. At the same time, with that big frame, he’s got a really short stroke, which is repeatable.”
Besides his hot bat, Robinson has also helped his cause by learning to play outfield this spring. First base is his natural position, but Williams was looking for versatility off his bench, so the majority of Robinson’s reps this spring came in the outfield, where he was understandably nervous in the beginning.
“I came in, learned a new position and worked hard at that,” said Robinson. “I feel pretty comfortable out there. I don’t feel like I’m a liability so much out there anymore. I’m not Denard Span or Bryce Harper or anybody, but I’m gonna make the routine plays.”
The Nationals have basically two more roster decisions to make. Robinson is battling first baseman/outfielder Mike Carp to be a left-handed bat off the bench, and left-handers Xavier Cedeno and Rich Hill are competing for a bullpen spot.
Robinson may have two more chances to make his case to suit up with the defending National League East champions on opening day. The Nats travel to Tampa tomorrow to play the Yankees in the final Grapefruit League game and then jump on a plane to D.C. to face the Yanks 24 hours later at Nationals Park on Saturday.
As more and more lockers are cleaned out, Robinson remains.
“You can’t play GM cause when you do that, it never goes the way you think it’s going to,” said Robinson. “The best you can do, as long as they have a locker and a uniform for you there, the best you can do is go out and play the game. You can’t really stress yourself out too much because you’re not gonna get the best out of yourself if you do that.”
“It’s a great group of guys, a great coaching staff and they run a really good camp. I’ve tried to approach it like I do every spring training, just go out and win a job.”