By Jon Lane
The Yankees play the third of a four-game homestand this afternoon when they welcome the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies. Joba Chamberlain is back on the mound to face off against Kyle Kendrick.
Chamberlain looked sharp his last time out, throwing three innings of one-run ball with no walks and three strikeouts to bounce back from a terrible start to the Grapefruit season. But even though Phil Hughes produced his first bad start of the spring Saturday in Bradenton (two hits — both solo home runs — three walks, two strikeouts in three innings), Hughes led our homepage poll as of 11 a.m. by a slim 932-895 that asks whether he or Chamberlain should be the Yankees’ fifth starter.
Will another strong performance from Chamberlain assuage more concerns that he’s better off in the bullpen? We’ll have this poll up one more day, so we’ll see where you stand by this time tomorrow morning. Don’t forget to also sound off on our message boards about this and other topics surrounding the Yankees.
Brett Gardner CF
Cody Ransom 3B
Nick Swisher 1B
Hideki Matsui DH
Xavier Nady RF
Jose Molina C
Angel Berroa 2B
Todd Linden LF
Eduardo Nunez SS
Pitching after Chamberlain:
Brian Bruney (Today’s Quick Cut and in my view the Yankees’ best choice to set up Mariano Rivera)
Kei Igawa (Your 2009 New York Yankees fifth starter — insert sarcasm wherever you prefer)
Dave Robertson (Fighting for a spot in the front end of the bullpen)
Robinson Cano (right shoulder tendinitis) and Damaso Marte (left shoulder inflammation) will have MRIs done today and be examined by team physician Chris Ahmad. Brian Cashman referred to these injuries as “yellow flags” and hopes rest and recovery will do the trick. Then again, Jorge Posada’s shoulder was no big deal and Alex Rodriguez was supposed to only have a cyst drained. Historically, the Yankees are overly cautious when it comes to diagnosing injuries, and rightfully so.
UPDATE: Each MRI revealed no structural damage. Cano has bursitis and Marte inflammation. According to The Journal News, Cano will DH or pinch hit before returning to full-time action on Friday, while it’s unknown when Marte will pitch again.
Three years ago, George Steinbrenner denounced the World Baseball Classic, but Cashman took the high road despite seeing two of his players return from the competition nicked up.
“You have some great storylines going on,” Cashman said. “It doesn’t mean it’s not difficult. Of course we’d love to have our entire team here together, working every day.”
Seeing Posada catch four innings on Sunday was reassuring. Although his throwing arm wasn’t tested, it was another big step forward. Next for Posada is catching CC Sabathia Tuesday against the Pirates, the same night Mariano Rivera will make his spring debut. The YES Network will air these two significant steps as part of its live telecast beginning at 7 p.m.
Ian Kennedy was optioned to Triple-A on Sunday, a blip on the radar, but notable considering he remains a vital part of the Yankees’ future. Cashman predicted “a big year” for the right-hander, but this shows you how much further both Hughes and Chamberlain are ahead of the team’s first-round pick (21st overall) in 2006. That said, Kennedy is 24 years old and unless the Yankees are blown away (or desperate) at the July trade deadline, there’s no reason to cut the cord.
Reliever Mark Melancon was also among eight players reassigned to the Minor League camp. Looking for another Joba Version 2007 or possibly Rivera’s successor? Melancon is your man.
1:28 p.m. Following a four-pitch leadoff walk to Eric Bruntlett, Chamberlain whiffed Jason Donald on three pitches and caught Ryan Howard looking to strand Bruntlett at second base.
1:47 p.m. Another good inning for Chamberlain, who retires the first two batters and survives Geoff Jenkins’ two-out double to escape the second unscathed.
2:06 p.m. Another scoreless inning for Chamberlain, though he had some help when Jose Molina gunned down Bruntlett trying to steal second base. Joba also hit the next batter (Donald), but showed some mettle. This, folks, is a very good sign being that it’s a Spring Training game in which Chamberlain is experimenting with different pitches and techniques while still working his arm into season shape.
2:22 p.m. The line on Joba Chamberlain: three innings pitched, two hits, no runs, no walks, three strikeouts, one hit batsman. He threw 48 pitches, 27 for strikes. Yankees lead, 2-0.