Cubs RH David Robertson plans to be ready for opening day

MESA, Ariz. (AP) — David Robertson smiled as he joked around with Michael Hermosillo during a live batting practice session on an unseasonably cool day in Arizona.

If the Cubs veteran reliever was at all worried about ramping up in time for opening day, it was hard to tell.

Robertson is back in camp with Chicago after going home to be with his wife, Erin, for the birth of their third child. The right-hander, who turns 37 on April 9, threw about 25 pitches to Hermosillo and minor league outfielder Cole Roederer on Tuesday.

“This is fun. This is about as fun of an atmosphere as you can have,” a grinning Robertson said after it was over. “Pitching against your teammates, you just want to make sure you don’t hit one of them.”

Robertson said he did some throwing while away from the team, enlisting the help of a couple friends. He could pitch in a spring training game for Chicago as soon as Friday.

Opening day is next week, but he thinks he has enough time to get ready.

“It’s crunch time, but I feel good physically,” Robertson said. “It’s a different camp, so I’m going to do the best I can to be ready. But I feel physically good.”

Robertson finalized a $3.5 million, one-year contract with Chicago on March 16. He can earn an additional $500,000 in performance bonuses and $1 million in roster bonuses.

Robertson is among several new relief options for manager David Ross after the Cubs’ bullpen had a 4.39 ERA last year. There is no clear choice at closer, so Robertson could draw some save opportunities.

The well-traveled Robertson made his big league debut in 2008 and spent his first seven seasons with the New York Yankees, winning the World Series in 2009. He has 137 saves and a 2.93 ERA in 673 career appearances for New York (2008-14, 2017-18), the Chicago White Sox (2015-17), Philadelphia Phillies (2019) and Tampa Bay Rays (2021).

“I’ve done so many different roles that it doesn’t matter. I don’t really care,” Robertson said. “We can win games in the sixth and seventh innings. We can swing the momentum. But if I’m asked to close, I’ll do my best.”

Robertson’s return to camp is part of a solidifying picture when it comes to Chicago’s pitching staff. Manager David Ross also indicated Tuesday that Justin Steele is on track to be part of the big league rotation to start the season.

Beyond Kyle Hendricks and Marcus Stroman, the Cubs also have Wade Miley, Drew Smyly and Alec Mills. Miley is off to a slow start this spring and might not be ready at the start of the year.

“Yeah, I think there’s a strong chance he’ll be in the rotation,” Ross said of Steele. “He’s looked really good. I mean, building off of last year, ball’s coming out nicely.”

The 26-year-old Steele made his major league debut last summer, going 4-4 with 4.26 ERA in 20 games, nine starts. He pitched 2 2/3 innings of two-run ball in an exhibition game against Arizona on Tuesday.

“Something to learn from,” Steele said of the outing against the Diamondbacks. “I was kind of struggling to find my fastball command and control there for a little bit and I kept wanting to find it, so I kept forcing it and led to some walks.”

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Jay Cohen can be reached at https://twitter.com/jcohenap

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