WASHINGTON – Virginia native Nick Robertson was pitching in the minor leagues last year in Ogden, Utah when the team got a visit from Jim Hickey, who at the time had been a Major League pitching coach for Houston, Tampa Bay, and the Chicago Cubs.
Hickey, 59, was working in player development with the Los Angeles Dodgers and would go around and check in on pitchers with various minor league teams.
Robertson, drafted by the Dodgers out of James Madison University in Virginia in 2019, spent some time with Hickey while with Ogden in the rookie Pioneer League.
“I was trying to work to find a changeup grip to make mine better,” Robertson, 22, told Federal Baseball on Tuesday from Instructional League in Arizona.
“I talked to him the whole time he was there. He kind of helped me with the grip and it is still the one I use now.”
“He gave me some confidence and it definitely helped a lot going into the off-season,” Robertson added.
“I’m a huge believer in the changeup,” Hickey told reporters in a Zoom conference call with reporters after he was announced as the Washington Nationals’ new pitching coach.
“I don’t force anybody to throw changeups, but if I see something — a lot of guys don’t like the changeup because it’s not a sexy pitch — it’s not a huge swing and a miss pitch for a lot of guys, but there’s a lot of outs in there and there’s a lot of efficiency in there and at the end of the year, there’s a lot more innings in there as well if you can do that.”
Robertson, a 6-foot-6 right-hander, was also happy to hear he was picked by the Dodgers for their Instructional League roster.
“I am mostly working on my off-speed pitches,” Robertson said. “Just being out here and playing some games makes it a lot better since we missed out on the season. I was really excited; I didn’t know what to expect.”
The director of player development for the Dodgers is Will Rhymes, whom Robertson has met. Rhymes played at William & Mary – a member of the CAA along with JMU.
Now Robertson hopes to watch the World Series with other prospects.
Roanoke native Robertson was drafted by the Dodgers in the seventh round last year out of JMU.
He is one of two JMU pitchers now with Instructional League teams. The other is Shelton Perkins, who was drafted by the Orioles last year in the 16th round.
Perkins pitched a scoreless inning on Monday to get a save in a 2-0 win over Tampa Bay – there is that team again. Robertson last threw on Saturday, when he pitched two innings out of the bullpen against the Chicago White Sox in Arizona. He had 0.61 WHIP in his pro debut in 2019 with two teams, including Ogden, in 16 games out of the pen.