For an Arkansas native who shares his name with Quebec's largest city and is the product of a small community college in Mississippi, Montreal Robertson appeared awfully comfortable on a mound in West Michigan on Friday.
Until he was asked to leave it.
"When I walked back to the dugout, I saw the look on [manager Larry Parrish's] face, and he said, 'Time to end it," the 22-year-old right-hander said. "I was like, 'I'm just getting started.'"
The Tigers prospect needed just 71 pitches over five no-hit innings, as his Class A Whitecaps completed a two-hitter in their 6-0 victory over the visiting Dayton Dragons.
Robertson (1-0), a 29th-round draftee in 2011, retired the first 13 batters he faced. He struck out three, walking one. Weirdly, he threw a first-pitch strike to just five of 16 Dragons.
"The key to my success was keeping the ball low and away with my two-seam," Robertson said. "Then I used my cutter in or cutter out on righties with two strikes."
Robertson added that his cutter is a fairly new pitch. He learned it this offseason, and its success in his Class A debut lessened his reliance on his typical two-strike offering, the slider, and his changeup, which is a pitch he hopes to throw more consistently this year.
"The sinker is my bread and butter, and I would usually go to the slider more," he said, "but the cutter was good, and this was the first day I broke it out. I worked on it a lot this offseason. I wasn't going to throw it [in a game] until I could throw it for strikes."
Robinson's ability to battle back in counts and keep the ball on the ground paid off, too. So did some timely defense, including third baseman Mario Martinez's diving stop in the fifth, one batter after Robertson had issued a five-pitch free pass to Dragons third baseman Seth Mejias-Brean.
"I let the defense do the work," said Robertson, who induced eight groundouts, "and I applaud them for it."
The start marks the best of his brief career. After pitching about 30 innings in extended spring training in 2012, Robertson compiled 48 more at Class A Short-Season Connecticut. Despite his five innings of one-hit ball in his season finale on Sept. 2, he went winless in 11 games overall. This season, in which he hopes to reach the 110-inning mark, he's already got the first victory out of the way.
Relievers Slade Smith (two hits over three innings) and Jose Valdez (two walks in the ninth) closed out the club's shutout.
Dragons starter Ismael Guillon (0-1) was charged with two runs on one hit over 3 1/3 frames. He walked five. Whitecaps veteran designated hitter Mike Hernandez had two hits and two walks to lead the West Michigan attack.