Mariners may have unearthed gem in pitcher Mauricio Robles
PEORIA, Ariz. — A guy who watches young Mauricio Robles light up catchers' mitts here daily doesn't hesitate when asked how a 5-foot-10 pitcher can generate so much fastball heat.
Mariners pitching coach Rick Adair quickly points to the sky and quips something about God-given talent. But Mariners fans hoping to one day see Robles pitch at Safeco Field should also thank the talent evaluators for the Detroit Tigers.
That's because Robles, a left-handed starter whose fastball hits 97 mph and changeup keeps hitters lunging helplessly, wasn't even a pitcher when Detroit signed the Venezuelan as a teenage center fielder a few years back. The minor-leaguer acquired by Seattle in last summer's Jarrod Washburn trade assumed he'd continue playing the outfield until the Tigers got one look at his live arm.
"I'd tried to pitch once when I was younger and I didn't really like it and wanted to play in the outfield," Robles said Sunday. "But the Tigers saw my arm and told me they thought I could be a very good pitcher if I worked at it. So, that's what I did."
Robles spent hours every day in Venezuela tutoring with Tigers mound instructor Jorge Cordova, learning how to throw various pitches and mix them in during games. It didn't take long for Robles to make folks forget he was once an outfielder.