Time to panic over Joba?

joba_250_031009.jpgBy Jon Lane
Joba Chamberlain makes his third Spring Training start tonight against the Reds (YES HD, 7 p.m.). Normally that’s considered ho-hum, but Chamberlain is not just any other pitcher. He’s the prized jewel of the farm system and has already achieved cult status amongst the Yankees’ fan base.

Here’s the problem: Chamberlain’s first two spring starts were awful. He threw 28 pitches last Thursday in an exhibition game against Team Canada and walked four, including Justin Morneau and Jason Bay with the bases loaded, and failed to record an out. In his first start, he gave up two runs in three hits in only an inning.

Can Joba suddenly be on notice? George King writes that another brutal outing from Chamberlain and there will be questions: Is the shoulder OK? Is he better off in the bullpen? Or might he not make the team?

Including the exhibition game against Team USA, Phil Hughes, destined to begin the season in the Minors, has allowed two runs in 7 2/3 scoreless innings with three walks and eight strikeouts. I’m just sayin’.

“We want to see progress,” Joe Girardi told reporters of Chamberlain. “We want to see him a little bit more mechanically sound. That’s important because there is a direct correlation between mechanics and strikes.”

Let’s be fair: This is Spring Training, which means pitchers try different things and aren’t expected to ratchet it up and illuminate the radar gun with large numbers. In his first start, Chamberlain threw almost exclusively four-seam fastballs and has spent time after the Team Canada outing making adjustments to mechanical flaws by pitching coach Dave Eiland.

Furthermore, Jim Kaat, who knows a thing or two about pitching, sums it up this way: Pitchers are just trying to build up their arm strength, stamina and form. If a pitcher doesn’t look like he’s throwing his best stuff in his first few games, it’s because he isn’t.

A good performance from Chamberlain tonight and this debate is moot. But if he struggles again, is it time to panic? Would his status as the fifth starter be on shaky ground? What do you think?

7:51 p.m. Crisis over, people. Chamberlain breezed through the first two innings hitting as high as 96 on the gun and throwing a few nasty breaking pitches. He retired seven of the first eight Reds batters before allowing a broken-bat base hit in the third. Chris Dickerson doubled to deep center to drive home the Reds’ first run, but Brett Gardner appeared to misjudge the flight of the ball. 

3 Comments

Joba Chamberlain has the best stuff on the team.
Spring training is to get in shape.
If the yankees dont ruin him ( which they are trying to do with his innings limit ) he will be a pitcher that does not come along very often.
Note – I do think they will ruin him. A pitchers arm like any other muscle must be used and extended to grow stronger. The modern ideas on pitchers are not working. Arm injuries have not been less and pitchers are not more effective than in the past. Doc Gooden was pitching at 19 and Bob Feller was 17. Both threw as hard as anyone. When will the baseball community realize how wrong they are with their pitching ideas.
At this rate maybe Chamberlain will be able to pitch 200 innings by the time he is in his 30s.

Honestly, I hope they tell him to let loose tonight… I suspect they have asked him to ease into things and the kid has been holding back.

That being said, if they are going to limit his innings again what they should do is sign somebody like El Duke, a guy who can go 5 good innings and let Joba start the 6th and finish the game. Or, if El Duke gets lit up, simply have a reliever finish out the trouble inning, and maybe us another reliever to pitch one more inning and bring Joba in earlier. Then, when Orlando decides to take the month of August off like he’s done for his entire career, you can simply slide Joba into the starting role.

There’s absolutely no reason to panic over the Joba situation. My thought about him is still the same. We know he can dominate out of the pen. He has closer potential. While Mo’s still pitching Joba should be given every chance to establish himself as a starter. If he can dominate as a starter you leave him in the rotation. If he’s just going to be average as a starter you can move him back to the pen where he can continue to dominate. Use him in the way that best benefits the team. With Hughes, Brackman and Betances in the pipeline there’s no need to worry about filling out a rotation.

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