Joba or the Franchise?
By Jon Lane
Two terrible starts in Spring Training suddenly put Joba Chamberlain against the ropes. Yes, the same Joba Chamberlain who burst upon the scene as an electric set-up man in 2007 and a projected front-line starter was in a bit of danger of actually losing his grip on the fifth starter’s role with the Yankees in 2009.
Chamberlain shut up the naysayers, at least for now, with a nice performance Tuesday night. But because he’s not a five- or 10-year veteran, and since the Yankees were burned by handing starting jobs to Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy last season, the message is clear that Chamberlain is not receiving a free ride. Newsday reported this morning that some teammates let him know that it was time to step up.
This job is Chamberlain’s to lose. Should he stumble again, the likely scenario is not a demotion to Triple-A, but a rehashing of a debate that just will not go away. John Harper was the latest to suggest that while Chamberlain showed why the Yankees want him to start, there’s something about having that lock-down back end of a bullpen, an idea that was actually endorsed by our own Jim Kaat in Harper’s column.
Besides Chamberlain’s poor start to the spring, the impetuous to this discussion is Hughes’ impressive camp to date. The one Peter Abraham coined “Phil Franchise” is locating his breaking curveball to perfection and looks more motivated than ever to prove he’s for real and not a 23-year-old version of Carl Pavano. This led Harper to write: “If Hughes does have a strong spring, and CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Chien-Ming Wang and Andy Pettitte are all healthy, you can make a strong case for putting Joba in the bullpen again.”
I’ve made my case before: Chamberlain belongs in the rotation. He’s ahead of the curve compared to Hughes and more time in the Minors for the latter is not a bad thing whatsoever. But what do you think? Would the Yankees be better off with Chamberlain back in the pen and Hughes as the fifth starter? Be sure to comment on this thread and vote on our homepage poll.
As of 12:30 p.m., Chamberlain received 53 percent of the votes. Here’s some information to help you decide:
Chamberlain: 2.17 ERA in 61 appearances (12 starts) and 124 1/3 innings since his 2007 debut.
Hughes: 5-7, 5.15 ERA in his career; 0-4, 6.62 in an injury plagued 2008.
Chamberlain: Recorded countless big outs as the eighth-inning reliever in 2007; out-pitched Josh Beckett at Fenway Park on July 25, 2008, by allowing three hits and striking out nine over seven shutout innings, a tell-tale sign he has the goods and the moxie to be a front line starter
Hughes: No-hit Rangers for 6 1/3 innings May 1, 2007 before pulling up lame with hamstring injury; tossed 3 2/3 scoreless innings in relief of Roger Clemens in Game 3 of 2007 ALCS
Chamberlain: Rotator cuff tendinitis forced him to the disabled list in early August before he returned the next month to work out of the bullpen.
Hughes: A torn hamstring derailed Hughes in 2007. The following year it was a fractured rib.