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AL $1 Option: Nate Robertson

Last season was a year to forget for Tigers pitcher Nate Robertson. A sprained thumb suffered during Spring Training contributed to him opening the season in the bullpen, a place he was unfamiliar with having made starts in 163 of his previous 174 outings in the majors. His new role, along with more injuries, kept him under 50 innings pitched for the year. And when he did pitch the results were just not there. But last year’s troubles are why Robertson is an attractive end-game target for those in AL-only leagues this season.

In addition to the thumb injury, Robertson also suffered in 2009 from a lower back strain that landed him on the disabled list. And if that wasn’t enough, he had surgery to remove a mass from his left elbow that kept him out for 60 days. Robertson ended the 2009 campaign with inflammation on the left side of his pelvis. And in November he had surgery for a torn muscle in his groin.

And you thought you were happy to see 2010 come.

This year Robertson finds himself battling for a spot back in the rotation. He has had a strong Spring and thru games on Tuesday he leads the Tigers with 14.2 IP. Robertson has 2-0 record with a 3.68 ERA, with 6 BB and 14 Ks.

For the five seasons prior to 2009, Robertson averaged just under 31 starts per year for Detroit. His strong showing in Grapefruit League play should help him sew up a spot back in the rotation this year. In 2009, Robertson had a 3.86 ERA in six games as a starter and a 7.48 ERA in 22 games out of the pen.

In addition to pitching out of the pen, two other things stand out as outliers for Robertson last year. Historically a ground ball pitcher, he had a 0.99 GB/FB ratio last year. Also, Robertson usually has pretty solid control, but last year he had a 5.07 BB/9, nearly two full walks above his 3.24 career average.

Assuming Robertson reverts to throwing strikes and getting ground balls, he should be a fine $1 pitcher to target at the end of drafts. In addition to everything else that went wrong last year, he also had a .344 BABIP, 33 points above his career norm. Robertson does not need to make any improvements in his game, he just needs to be healthy and have a reasonable amount of luck to be a good addition to your fantasy team.