Clint Robinson was one of the most feared hitters in the Pacific Coast League in 2011 and 2012. Then came 2013, a lost campaign spent in the eastern half of the country.
Thankfully for Robinson, the Dodgers came calling this offseason with a chance to return to his familiar PCL stomping grounds. So far, the Albuquerque Isotopes first baseman has looked like his old self.
Robinson, 29, has hit .389/.468/.519 with two home runs and nine RBI through 14 games with Albuquerque. That's a marked improvement over the .254/.353/.421 line he had with the Toronto Blue Jays' Triple-A and Double-A teams last season.
“So far it’s going well,” Robinson said. “Two weeks in, we’re still getting to know each other as teammates, getting to know the teams around the league. So far it’s been a pretty good transition.”
Robinson was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in 2007. He reached Omaha in 2011 and played there again in 2012. But he was blocked at the big-league level by young starts Eric Hosmer at first base and Billy Butler at designated hitter. Robinson only had four at-bats in four games with Kansas City in 2012.
The Royals packaged Robinson with reliever Vin Mazzaro in a four-player trade to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Robinson never played in Pittsburgh, however, as the Blue Jays claimed him off waivers at the end of spring training last year. Then came the surprising news that Toronto was sending Robinson to Double-A New Hampshire instead of Triple-A Buffalo.
“When it first happened in spring training you don’t really expect to go from having success in Triple-A year-in and year-out and being told you’re being sent to Double-A,” Robinson said. “It’s kind of a shot to your ego a little bit. I know you can’t really help it, but it’s kind of embarrassing for me. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with Double-A, but …
“It’s part of the game, you’ve got to learn to get through it, go out and play the game, and let the decision-makers make their decisions. There’s not really anything you can do about it. So you just have to go out and do your job, earn your paycheck. That’s what I did.”
Robinson did play 35 games at Buffalo later in the year, but when he qualified for minor-league free agency he started looking at other organizations. Despite the presence of All-Star Adrian Gonzalez at first base in Los Angeles, Robinson did not pass up a chance to join the Dodgers when they offered him a contract.
“They wanted me, showed interest and at the end of the day, this is my job and this is how I make my living and take care of my family,” Robinson said. “That’s number one to me. It has really nothing to do with the major-league situation. I don’t even think about that. It’s just where could I go, enjoy myself doing what I like to do and get paid to do it? That’s pretty much my only thought about it.”
The Isotopes have appreciated Robinson's contributions so far, and not just what he does on the field. His professional approach and attitude has been welcomed in the clubhouse. Albuquerque hitting coach Franklin Stubbs said Robinson has many of the qualities that teams look for in a veteran.
“Consistency, a guy that can swing the bat, catch the ball, very humble, works hard every day,” Stubbs said. “Those traits that you look for when you have guys to help out your young guys grow. And hopefully in doing so he puts together a good season and gets himself back to the big leagues.”
Robinson and the Isotopes will wrap up their series with El Paso on Friday at 7:05 p.m. The team will then hit the road for eight games before returning for a 12-game homestand starting April 28.