Joba limit painful, but necessary

arod_250_081309.jpgBy Jon Lane
Life in the penthouse as winners of 20 out of 26 is good, especially when one of the perks is having the luxury of dealing with injuries without succumbing to desperation.

Four major players left for Seattle with barking body parts, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera. If the Yankees were close to falling off a cliff, you’d bet on all of them “manning up” and playing tonight, the first of a four-game set at Safeco Field that begins a seven-day excursion out west and a 10-day road trip that concludes next weekend in Boston.

The Yankees own a 5 game lead over the Red Sox, far from safe, but currently a luxury. X-rays on Jeter’s sore foot were negative, but considering the team had to immediately board a plane and fly across the country and further north, I’d be surprised if Jeter is in tonight’s lineup, and near shocked if Posada – he took a foul tip off his right hand and was beaten up chasing A.J. Burnett’s three wild pitches and many others in the dirt – will play. Remember yesterday he played after catching the night before.

Joe Girardi said A-Rod was already getting tonight off, but as luck had it, A-Rod was hit by a Shawn Camp pitch in a most minute spot, the part of his left elbow slightly unprotected by a huge pad.

Rivera’s status was unknown until after the game and anytime you learn about soreness in his pitching shoulder – the one that underwent a procedure to remove calcification from a joint – that’s frightening. Both player and manager insisted Rivera would be ready to go. Rivera, incidentally, did not leave with the team, but that was to attend a personal matter and unrelated to his heath.

These are the advantages of having a nice-sized lead in your division and a deep bench; you have the capability to manage nagging ailments correctly and be smart about resting your starting pitchers. This brings me to the latest obsessive-compulsive debate about Joba Chamberlain. First he belonged in the bullpen. Now he’s coddled and overprotected, which will adversely affect the rest of his career. Chamberlain is 8-2 with a 3.85 ERA and despite annoying inconsistency hasn’t lost a decision since June 18.

joba_250_081309.jpgThis isn’t complicated and it’s a not a big deal. This is the case of a 23-year-old ace in the making that in 2006 dealt with triceps tendinitis and was disabled late last season with rotator cuff tendinitis. It’s fair to debate that not being on a consistent schedule affects one’s rhythm – and Chamberlain is at the top of his game when working at a swift pace. I buy that, but don’t complain based on precedents. Tom Seaver and Bob Gibson are from a different era. Justin Verlander has averaged roughly 189 innings through three full seasons and 2009, but he has no history with injuries, but everybody is different. Just because Verlander and Felix Hernandez have gone unscathed doesn’t mean Chamberlain will survive the strain and stress of a way-too-soon heavy workload.

The Mariners, incidentally, were also careful with King Felix, deciding in 2006 to cap his innings to 205 (he threw 191). They did this by skipping his turns after falling out of contention and lifted the cap the following season. The Yankees aren’t out of contention, but the Red Sox are far from finished and division titles are won in September. News flash: The rivals collide in a three-game series September 25-27 at Yankee Stadium. Something tells me those meetings will decide who captures the AL East flag.

Giants ace Tim Lincecum was shut down in September 2007 after his innings count rose to 177 1/3 between the Minor and Major Leagues. The following season he was ordered not to throw bullpen sessions typical of an offseason routine. Manager Bruce Bochy told The San Francisco Chronicle they were being careful due to studies showing that pitchers who throw 200 innings early in their career were more susceptible to injuries.

Fausto Carmona finished fourth in 2007 AL Cy Young voting after going 19-8 with a 3.06 ERA and 215 innings pitched – and threw 15 more in the playoffs. The following season he plummeted to 8-7, 5.44 in 120.2 IP and this season the Indians demoted him to their Rookie League when he was 2-6 7.42, 41 walks and 36 strikeouts in 60 2/3 IP.

Chamberlain pitched 88 1/3 innings in the Minors before he was called up in August 2007. He entered this season with 124 1/3 Major League innings pitched and will match that total with eight more outs next Wednesday. Because this is New York and Chamberlain’s team is the Yankees – anything less than a World Championship is a failure – many are in an uproar. Girardi told reporters last night, “This is not just about the next two months. This is about years and years to come.”

If this is Kansas City or Pittsburgh, it’s a mere subplot. Here in the Big Apple, this is “ruining” Joba Chamberlain, just like taking him out of the bullpen is traumatizing him and Brian Cashman is paying for his decision to rebuild a program with non-contending seasons.

Girardi’s later statement is most telling: It’s “all hands on deck” for the postseason, when The Joba Rules I, II, III, IV, V and so on are tossed away like trash. A fresh Chamberlain gives the Yankees their best chance to win it all this year and in future years, when every April the “This team stinks” and “What have you done for me lately” tsunami of complaints arrive with the Yankees’ first three-game losing streak.


  1. themickandslick

    O.K. I know you must be a really smart guy to be a journalist in NYC, but Seaver and Gibson are from different eras? The human arm’s structure or development has undergone a major change since the 60’s? I’m still trying to find this scientific study with a broad statistical sample that proves pitchers who are completely developed physically suffer more blown arms. We will only know if Joba is Jim Bouton or Tom Seaver after it happens. This innings limit is whistling past the graveyard. I hate to admit it but I agree with Goldman on this one. I think long innings from poor command caused by irregular work are more dangerous than 185-200 innings of regular starts.

  2. letsgoyankees

    I’m with Gldman on the Joba issue, actually. Although I can’t blame the Yanks for at least trying as hard as they could to avoid injury with Jobber.

  3. oldschoolyank

    I can’t begin to understand the Joba rules, but I am as concerned about this guy’s arm as anyone. That being said, it’s amazing how Yankees medical people come up with these total number of innings limitations. Similar no two snowflakes being alike, neither are the anatomical & psychological make-up of any pitcher. I have resigned myself to believe that we just need to stick with a plan, give Joba some input and keep him involved so he can prepare mentally and physically, and just go with it.

  4. alightningrodfan1

    It was difficult seeing Jeter and my man A-Rod get hit last night. I hope they are both fine and I was happy A-Rod did get the game winning run. As for Joba, I hope it all works out. If we go to the world series, I think somehow it will.

  5. inthesun

    I agree. Seeing all 3 of them get hurt last night was insane. I missed seeing Mo’s injury occur. But honestly, it didn’t shock me. As I have said all season, Mo just doesn’t look the same this year, so it made me wonder how long it has been bugging him. The Joba rules….if I may be frank…..Crap! He is a starter, bottom line. I hear all these sports announcers and retired pitchers saying “Let the man pitch” and I agree. I haven’t seen so much drama dealing with a fricken pitcher in my life. I just don’t see him declining because he pitches 5,6,7 games more than they “planned” (Joba Rules). i am orig. from Seattle, but have lived in NY now for 15 years. Go Yanks!!!!

  6. jasphil

    The Yanks have the luxury to limit Joba’s innings because they have a 6.5 game lead in the AL East. Why not avail themselves of their ability to rest his arm a bit in prep for October when he’s likely going to be the #3 starter? If they were in a struggle with Boston and Tampa for the division lead or wild card, I doubt they would be giving him this rest.

    And enough of those of you who say Joba should be in the ‘pen. He is the Yankees best pitcher with the brightest future. If I have a guy that can throw 4 pitches with command for strikes, I want him in control of a game every 5 days, not coming in during the 8th three or four times a week. That same logic goes for Phil Hughes as well, who will be in the rotation in 2010.

    We should all be enjoying Yankees baseball well into October this year.


    Well Im sorry to say I do not agree with the Joba rule, how in the world will we ever know what type of pitcher he is if we keep limiting him, on innings and pitches, come on, he is a professional pitcher, put him out there and let him pitch build up his arm strength and let us see what he can do, i think this baby attitude towards him is wrong, if this is the case put him in a trade and get someone who can fit the mold of a pitcher, im a die hard yankee fan but i got no tolerance for this, either pitch him or trade him.


    I dont usually make comments but the treatment of Jaba by this team has been more than ridiculous, disgraceful and truly idiotic. If I were him, I would ask for a trade to a club where I could be used as a pitcher instead of a piece of ming porcelain. Its a joke and it has done nothing but ruin what was a great pitcher in the past and create a delicate and incapable mess which worsens with every start. They are the laughing stock of baseball with this nonsense.

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