Results tagged ‘ Joba Chamberlain ’

Second-half storylines

By Jon Lane
The Yankees are 14 games over .500. They are three behind the Red Sox in the American League East and lead the Wild Card by two-and-a-half over the Rangers. Their 495 runs scored, 132 home runs, 358 on-base percentage and.471 slugging percentage lead the Major Leagues, and their 25 road victories are  tops in the American League.

Life is good in Yankeeland, but not great. Both the Wild Card and division races will be fierce, and in the AL East, you cannot dismiss the Rays. Will the Yankees have the legs to return to October? Here are five storylines for the second half:

Will the Yankees reverse their fortunes against the Red Sox?
This is ugly: The Yankees are 9-19 against the Red Sox, Tigers, Angels and Phillies – all first-place teams – as well as the Rays. They resume the season tomorrow against Detroit at Yankee Stadium and still have to deal with the Angels in Southern California in mid-September. Anthony McCarron presented the brutal truth in today’s New York Daily News. Among the cliff notes, CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Joba Chamberlain and Andy Pettitte are a combined 3-10 with a 5.41 ERA against those elite teams.

This is ghastly: The Yankees are 0-8 against the Red Sox. The last time they saw them was at Fenway Park in June. They arrived to Boston in first place and with the AL’s best record, and hungry for revenge. Instead they were blown out 7-0 and dropped the next two games each by one run. Never mind the dormant offense, something was affecting the Yankees psychologically from where I sat.

The teams play 10 more times starting August 6 at Yankee Stadium. Since the Rays and Rangers won’t go away, how the Yankees perform against their rivals may determine who wins the AL East -and who misses the October party.

Will the Yankees reverse their fortunes against the Red Sox?(online surveys)

Will they pull the trigger for Roy Halladay?
Will Roy Halladay become a Yankee? Probably not. Do the Yankees have to have him? No, but they must explore every angle on what it’ll take to get him. As Bill Madden wrote today, “The teams that seemingly have the biggest need and are the best fits for a premier player coming on the market aren’t necessarily willing to pay the premium price, leaving the trading club no choice but to take the best package available.”

Outside of Sabathia and Burnett, there are growing holes in the Yankees’ rotation. Fans have spoken out against Brian Cashman dipping into his farm system he so painstakingly rebuilt, but as I suggested the other day, I’d offer Chamberlain, Austin Jackson and Jesus Montero only because it’s Roy Halladay. When you make a deal like this, it’s painful, but it’ll be worth a front three of Doc, CC and A.J. – not to mention the reunion of Halladay and Burnett.

Will they pull trigger for Roy Halladay?(poll)

Can Joba Chamberlain turn it around?

Go ahead, members of the Loyal Order of the Joba to the Bullpen Army, gloat. Chamberlain is struggling mightily as a starting pitcher. Alas, barring a complete collapse he’s staying in the rotation because that’s where he’s needed and Phil Hughes isn’t moving anywhere. Since June 1, Chamberlain has reached the seventh inning just once in seven starts and his body language has been terrible. But the Yankees are staying the course. The learning curve is a lot slower for some compared to others, but how much longer can they afford Chamberlain throwing 100-plus pitches in under five innings?

Can Joba Chamberlain turn it around?(trends)

Is this Andy Pettitte’s last ride?

Andy Pettitte has won just one of his last four starts while seeing his ERA balloon from 4.26 to 4.85. His numbers in June: 2-2, 5.06; this month: 1-2, 7.27; in two starts against the Angels: 0-1, 9.90.

His next start will be against the Orioles next week. If he doesn’t pick it up in the second half, you’ll have to wonder if at age 37 his career would be coming to an end. Pettitte is signed for only one year, this after contemplating retirement and the Yankees firm in their stance of offering only a one-year deal to return.

Is this Andy Pettitte’s last ride?(online surveys)

Will Chien-Ming Wang salvage a rough 2009 season?

Sabathia is 1-2 with a 5.59 ERA in three July starts, but remember what he did last year in Milwaukee in the second half (11-2 with a 1.65 ERA and the Brewers were 14-3 in his starts). He is capable of carrying a staff and the way Burnett has performed (two runs or less in five straight starts; 6-2, 2.00 in his last eight), he’ll have help.

Beyond that, there’s Chamberlain, Pettitte and who knows? Sergio Mitre will likely provide a band-aid until (or if) Chien-Ming Wang returns. The Yankees need Wang, and not just in body, but in spirit. At 1-6, Wang has shown little to nothing of the form that won him 46 games over the past three seasons.

Will Chien-Ming Wang salvage a rough 2009 season?(survey)

A Halladay trade proposal

halladay_250_071409.jpgBy Jon Lane
Roy Halladay is open to the idea of playing for the Yankees, telling the media yesterday his “priority would be winning” and not a hefty contract extension. Halladay not only has a full no-trade clause, he added he’d be fine with pitching in the homer haven that’s become the new Yankee Stadium and the added pressure of playing in New York.

“I’m sure there’s a lot of media people that wouldn’t love me,” Halladay said during a press conference that announced him as tonight’s starter for the AL All-Star team. “But I think, for me, I’ve always been able to separate field from off-field. I’ve realized that I can’t make everybody happy all of the time. Sometimes, that includes media … We’ll try and do the best I can, but that’s always the way I’m going to be.”

The roadblocks are economics – Halladay makes $14.25 million this year and $15.75 million next year before being eligible for free agency in November 2010 – and the thought of the Blue Jays trading their best pitcher to a division rival.

The Yankees are not optimistic that they’ll land the 32-year-old right-hander, writes Ken Davidoff, who adds the Phillies are generally regarded as the favorites. But what they have to offer (along with the Phillies) is a chance to win a World Series and the ability to blow J.P. Riccardi away with a strong package out of their farm system. The Yankees aren’t getting  Halladay for Ian Kennedy and Andrew Brackman. Figure on the Jays asking for Phil Hughes (and that’s for starters), but I have a proposal that just might work.

Joba Chamberlain, Austin Jackson and Jesus Montero. (I may even throw in Kennedy if a suitor isn’t scared off by an aneurysm that will keep him out until next year.)

Anytime you surrender top prospects it’s a major risk that at least one becomes a superstar. But in this case, give me production over potential any day. Halladay remains in the prime of his career, and unlike Johan Santana there isn’t a risk that health will betray him in a middle of a long-term contract. Hughes’ lights-out performance in the bullpen looks like it’ll launch him into a long career as a front-line starter. Chamberlain’s struggles have his stock dropping a bit, but not to where teams will be turned off completely. The Blue Jays can still develop him as a starter, away from New York’s bright lights and endorsement temptations, or say forget that, let’s make him our closer.

Jackson is being hyped as a franchise center fielder, but as my colleague Glenn Giangrande wrote last week, Lastings Milledge was once a can’t-miss outfield prospect, and right now the Yankees are receiving surprising contributions from both Brett Gardner and Melky Cabrera. Montero has grand potential written all over him too, but there’s no guarantee he’ll remain a catcher. Even if he does, wouldn’t you take your chances on Francisco Cervelli or Austin Romine once (or if) Jorge Posada retires at the end of his contract in 2011 if it meant getting Halladay?

Kevin Kernan made his pro-Halladay case today too, going as far to remind everyone that the Red Sox once traded Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez for Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell. That won them a World Series in 2007 and it took guts. The Yankees may have to learn from history.

Halladay: A Natural Fit for Pinstripes

By Glenn Giangrande
Would the Blue Jays ever consider trading Roy Halladay to the Yankees?

Probably not.

Should the Yanks inquire and see what it would take?

Absolutely.

Fans of the Yanks often get criticized by others for wanting to play “fantasy baseball” – just bring in as many stars as possible! However, if recent comments made by Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi are to be believed, the right-handed ace could be in play.

“We have to see what’s out there,” Ricciardi said. “I’m not saying we’re going to shop him. But if something makes sense, we at least have to listen. We’re (leaning) more toward listening than we’ve ever been.”

While trading Halladay would send a tough message to Blue Jays fans, it appears to be the right move. Toronto’s pitching staff is chock full of youngsters, and the Jays are playing in a division filled with teams built to win now. Halladay’s big-money contract runs through next season, and he does have a full no-trade clause. Of course, clauses can be waived, money talks…you get the idea.

Prior to last season, the Yankees chose to hold onto a number of young chips while Johan Santana was on the trade market. With Andy Pettitte close to the end of his career, Chien-Ming Wang seemingly out for a long period of time, and Joba Chamberlain regressing in the rotation, Halladay is the kind of pitcher worth emptying the tank to acquire. Every youngster except Phil Hughes should be in play – he’s too valuable to this year’s cause in the bullpen.

Austin Jackson? Sure. Lastings Milledge was once a can’t-miss outfield prospect, remember?

Manuel Banuelos, the 18-year-old strikeout artist turning heads in Charleston? No problem. The Yankees are in the business of winning now. If a player isn’t on the Major League roster and is eligible to be traded, he’s expendable.

It’s not likely that Ricciardi would move Halladay to a divisional rival, and if this situation does indeed develop, a number of teams will put together packages for the ace that may trump what the Yankees could offer.

Still, he’d look so good pitching alongside CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett down the stretch that a phone call must be placed.

Phil Huge

By Glenn Giangrande
Me thinks it’s time to proclaim Phil Hughes a reliever for the remainder of the 2009 season.

A few days ago while driving to the New York Islanders Draft Party at Nassau Coliseum, a.k.a The John Tavares Spectacular, Joe Girardi was on WFAN talking about how the Yankees will, in a few weeks, lose the ability to stretch Hughes out as a starter down at Triple-A. There’s no doubt that his Major League future lies in starting. He was the top prospect in all of baseball just a few years ago. He should help the Yankees’ rotation for a long time to come.
 
As far as the here and now is concerned, his performance out of the ‘pen should speak for itself.
 
By throwing 1.2 scoreless innings against the Mets on Sunday night, Hughes lowered his ERA as a reliever to 1.50 in 12.0 IP. He’s pitched in seven games, allowing runs in just one of them – a pair of them at Fenway Park on June 10th, when he threw 3.2 IP in relief of an ineffective Chien-Ming Wang. His fastball is humming in the mid-90s. He’s been close to unhittable. Given the other options the Yanks have for the rotation, Hughes’ power arm in the ‘pen is a major asset.
 
Let’s assume the Yankees make it to October. They’ll only need four starters, with CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte the locks. Joba Chamberlain has made big strides in the rotation in recent outings, and Wang appears to be making his own steps in the right direction. Why mess with a good thing?  If Brian Bruney can stay healthy for the remainder of the year, he and Hughes would be a formidable 1-2 late inning punch in front of Mariano Rivera. Then Alfredo Aceves can stay in his “swing” role of being able to set-up or settle things down early. If David Robertson and his 2.60 ERA are able to handle some high leverage innings, the Yanks will have cobbled together a pretty solid bridge to Mo.
 
There’s no reason Hughes shouldn’t be a part of it, if only for this year.

What went wrong

By Jon Lane
The Yankees are in Miami seething after a 2-4 road trip capped off by dropping two out of three to the hideous Washington Nationals. They are 3-6 in their last nine games, which would be 2-7 if not for Luis Castillo. The mojo they showed for much of last month has been hiding along with the sun during this June swoon, and it started after the first pitch at Fenway Park on June 9. I’m afraid to inform you that’s not a coincidence.

Here were the issues during a miserable Thursday at Yankee Stadium:

? A five-hour, 26-minute rain delay, leaving everyone not employed as a farmer cursing Mother Nature. That said, you cannot control the weather and the Yankees did right by their fans by allowing them to move down from the upper deck and issuing rain checks to a future, non-premium game either this season or next. That’s more than can be said about the boneheads at the USGA, who probably buckled under public pressure when they actually decided to treat their customers fairly by allowing tickets for Thursday to be used on Monday. The fact that it came down to that was downright stupid.  

? As far as what the Yankees can control, Joba Chamberlain continues to struggle. Given his inconsistency, Chien-Ming Wang’s attempted recovery, Phil Hughes ready and waiting and the Pedro Martinez rumors, those Joba to the bullpen calls are getting louder. I don’t see Pedro coming to the Bronx and you can’t call for Joba to be yanked from the rotation every time he’s not lights out. Leave him be.

? Seven runs in 26 innings – two in the last 18 – against the Nationals’ pitching staff? Alright, even the best teams are shot down by pitchers on a hot streak, like John Lannan. But it is inexcusable to not score one run off Craig Stammen. This history of morphing no-names into a hybrid of Cy Young and Walter Johnson is ridiculous. How is it that Stammen owned a 5.86 ERA in five starts prior to yesterday against teams that had never seen him either?

? Bill Madden documents such a track record that goes back to Billy Traber (remember him?). Other immortals on the growing list are Adam Eaton and Daryl Thompson, and Fernando Nieve remains fresh in everyone’s mind.

? The Yankees had chances to win yesterday and Wednesday night – and failed against that vaunted Nationals bullpen. For the series they batted 3-for-20 with runners in scoring position (3-for-13 on Tuesday, a win). No wonder why Joe Girardi was in a sour mood.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Girardi said. “The more we talk about it, the more people think about it.”

The truth hurts: The Yankees are 1-10 against the Red Sox and Phillies, and 36-19 vs. the rest of baseball. They play three decent teams during this road trip (Marlins, Braves, Mets). Tonight they face Marlins left-hander Sean West – for the very first time. A good showing and most of the bitter taste of the past two days will be gone. But it starts with Andy Pettitte working beyond the fifth inning, which he hasn’t done in three of his past four starts. And it needs to continue with the offense reawakening against West, who has alternated between great and mediocre.

Stay tuned for a Father’s Day tribute and tonight’s lineups. After that I’ll be away for the next seven days. Enjoy the games.

Mets vs. Yankees: 6/12/09 Diary

firstpitch.jpgBy Jon Lane
First pitch: 7:09 p.m.
Off and running here at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees will take a win, but if Joba can dominate it’ll be the ultimate shot in the arm coming off another disastrous Boston series. And yes, the sun is out and the sky is a crystal-clear blue.

A great start for Joba to retire the Mets in order on 14pitches. His first-inning troubles have been well-documented. Coming in he allowed 11 runs (10 earned) in the first (an 8.44 ERA).

7:27 p.m.
A mixed reception, though mostly boos, for Gary Sheffield. Sheff spoke at length before the game. No matter what you’ve read about him, my experiences covering him while he played with the Yankees was always positive. If you talked about baseball or boxing (one of his passions), or anything except steroid accusations, he was friendly, affable and quick with a smile. The veteran is enduring a miserable June (.107 coming in), but he’s been looked to for leadership and had high praise for Jerry Manuel even before Ken Rosenthal’s column was brought up.

Sheff’s struggles continue as Chamberlain caught him looking for Strike 3.

7:41 p.m.
Robinson Cano goes yard (what else?) to right field (where else?) to give the Yankees a 1-0 lead, home run 106 hit in this new building. According to various reports, speculation has centered on whether there is a wind tunnel in right field caused by either the open concourses or the slope of the stands, which is less steep that the original Yankee Stadium.

The next batter, Jorge Posada, missed a home run to dead center by about three or so feet. 

bleachers.jpg8:36 p.m.
I spent the third inning watching from Section 202, the bleachers, visiting a friend, which turned out to be a long visit. Chamberlain threw 43 pitches while walking and hitting a batter with the bases loaded to give the Mets a 2-1 lead. By the time I was leaving, Mark Teixeira homered to right center (really?) to put the Yankees back on top.

Some funny stories from the always-entertaining and fully loaded bleachers, so much so even the wine-and-cheese crowd can’t resist. A guard told me that many times suite ticket holders would venture down hoping to sit there.

“Let me see your ticket,” the guard would say.

“I’ve got better seats,” the person would reply.

“So why aren’t you sitting in them?” the guard would retort.

Later, while Chamberlain was walking the earth, a Yankees fans demanded that the guard give Mets fans the old heave-ho. The guard turned to me, rolled his eyes, and said, “I’m used to this. It’s a lot worse when Boston or Philly is here.”

In my friend’s row sat a line of Yankees fans with one poor Mets fan in the middle. She told me the Yankee boosters were taking bets on when this guy would get his rear-end kicked.

Not everything is perfect out there – far from it. That obstructed view everyone complains about? Whoa boy. From my vantage point in right center, the Mohegan Sun sports bar blocked off virtually all of left field from center field on. Still, it’s the place to be. Even if you don’t have bleacher tickets – again, the guards are strict about this, just ask the pampered ones – hanging out in the standing section above the sports bar, the food court, is a sense of community.

8:43 p.m.
Chamberlain allowed one hit in four innings, but walked five, hit two batters and threw 100 pitches. Another reason why the Yankees are fortunate to have CC Sabathia. The bullpen is somewhat rested, but Andy Pettitte is going tomorrow and the left-hander has thrown 104 pitches his last two starts, five and six innings, respectively. This creates a potentially precarious situation through the weekend.

Brett Tomko’s in. His job is to eat innings and keep the Mets off the scoreboard.

8:59 p.m.
A double, stolen base, walk and two-run double. 4-3 Mets. And at a blink of an eye, Gary Sheffield crushed a two-run bomb to left, strolling out of the batter’s box to admire career homer No. 505, 6-3 Mets. So much for Tomko doing his job. A reporter next to me quipped he’s a single and triple away from the cycle. Alas, Girardi spared fans the pain when he removed Tomko after his 37th pitch, a walk to Luis Castillo.

Interestingly, Joe Girardi changed his tune about Brian Bruney. The plan at first was for him to make a rehab start tomorrow at Double-A Trenton. Now it’s something the manager said had to be talked about and that he’d have an answer after the game. Reading between the lines, and evaluating everyone in the bullpen not named Mariano Rivera, Bruney could be activated tomorrow. Could Tomko be the one cut loose? It’s either that or DFA Angel Berroa and carry 13 pitchers.

jeterscoreboard.jpg9:11 p.m.
Shortly after I snapped this, the Captain went yard to – guess? – right field. The fourth homer of the game cuts the Mets lead to 6-4. Thanks to bullpen follies from both teams, expect us to be here awhile longer.

9:48 p.m.
Yet another home run, this a blast King Kong would be proud of. Hideki Matsui smoked one into the second deck in right field to put the Yankees back on top 7-6. Incidentally, today is Matsui’s 35th birthday, the second straight year he’s homered on his date of birth. I ran into his interpreter, Roger Kahlon, outside the Mets’ clubhouse before the game. He told me while this season’s been a struggle for Matsui, not playing every day reduces stress on his surgically-repaired knees. He came in batting .260 (.240 in June), but has gutted it out and delivered when the team needed it.

Alas, Sheffield led off the seventh with a double. Phil Coke is in for his team-leading 28th appearance and second in two nights.

9:53 p.m.
Coke gets Fernando Tatis, pinch-hitting for Brian Schneider, to hit into a double play, but Sheffield scored to tie the game at seven. This bullpen situation remains ridiculous and has to be addressed by July. No, Joba Chamberlain is not going there. In fact, Ken Rosenthal reported earlier today Huston Street, among others, is on the Yankees’ radar.

10:10 p.m.

Two on and one out in the seventh and the Yankees come away with nothing; Alex Rodriguez flailed at Strike 3 for the second out. They’re 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position, a common theme during this current three-game losing streak.

Meanwhile, something rarely seen in Boston: Defense. Derek Jeter made like Billy Martin to catch a pop up between the mound and first base.

10:23 p.m.
Not fooling around, Girardi brings in Mariano Rivera with two out in the eighth. The best laid plans of mice and men … Rivera walks Carlos Beltran and David Wright doubles to right center to give the Mets an 8-7 lead. Let the speculation on whether Rivera is on the decline resume. This season, appearing in tie games, Rivera has allowed 6 ER in 6 2/3 IP.

10:39 p.m.
Here’s what the Yankees are facing in Francisco Rodriguez: 16-for-16 in save opportunities; league leader in saves with 210 since 2005; 2.35
ERA, 14 saves in 26 appearances against them.

10:53 p.m.
A-Rod vs. K-Rod. Yet another big spot for A-Rod, this time with the tying run on second and the winning run on first.

10:57 p.m.
Unbelievable. A-Rod pops up to second base … Luis Castillo dropped the ball. Jeter and Teixeira came home to score and some clown tossed a beer bottle into the press box. Yankees win 9-7.

11:31 p.m.
Turns out Bruney will pitch in Trenton on Saturday, while Damaso Marte will see Dr. James Andrews on Monday. Thanks for reading, everyone. I’ll have a full wrap on tonight’s wild events and this installment of the Subway Series on Monday.

Tuesday potpourri

By Jon Lane
The majority of Yankees fans got their wish Monday night. Joba Chamberlain pitched in the eighth inning.

Those in the minority reigned supreme over water coolers and caffeine fixes. Joba Chamberlain pitched eight superlative innings to defeat the Indians, allowing two runs on five hits with two walks and five strikeouts. In between, he made a diving catch that would have made the late Kirby Puckett blush. In the end, he swatted away those annoying midges like gnats, kept his velocity in the high 90s (97 MPH in that eighth inning) and improved to 3-1 while lowering his ERA to 3.71. His eight innings of work – and great ones at that – were a career high and the first time Chamberlain went that long since a Single-A game in 2006.

Yep, put him in the bullpen. Take a 23-year-old potential franchise pitcher who neutralized the Tribe with everything in his arsenal and relegate him to one inning and three outs. That’s exactly what the Twins did with Johan Santana after in 2002 he led the Majors with 15 wild pitches.

Oh wait. I’m sorry. I erred. The Twins showed something wholly fickle in this town – patience while allowing evolution to take its course. They transitioned Santana into their rotation in 2003 after he spent four months as a reliever. He won his last eight decisions and pitched Game 1 of the ALDS against the Yankees. You know the rest of his story.

Yet the voices still ring loud. Heaven forbid Chamberlain gets into a jam by walking a batter or allowing a base hit, he’s a failure as a starting pitcher. The next time he gets lit up – and he will because Santana and all the great ones get lit up – we’ll have to continue to endure this.

Here’s something refreshing: The Yankees right now have SIX legitimate starting pitchers. Is that a problem?  Really? Can you honestly have enough starting pitching? If you believe that you must be president of the Sidney Ponson Fan Club. Just wait until 2010 when Ian Kennedy is healthy. This is all part of building a program, folks.

Thanks mainly to Joba the starter, the Yankees completed a 5-2 road trip and are winners of 15 out of 19. They lead the AL East by one game and open a seven-game homestand tonight against the Texas Rangers (YES HD, 7 p.m.). Chamberlain starts again Saturday against the reeling Rays.

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The Yankees set a Major League record Monday night as they played their 18th consecutive game without an error (they were tied with the Red Sox, who played 17 straight error-free from June 11-30, 2006). The Yankees are 14-4 during this streak and a big part of it has been Mark Teixeira and his perfect fielding percentage. By no coincidence, Derek Jeter’s clip stands at .990 with only two errors, on pace for his best totals of his career.

And by the way, Teixeira’s hitting streak is at 14 games. You think the Red Sox executive offices are under siege for not doing whatever it took to bring him to New England?

Jeter’s single in the third was the 2,600th hit of his career

Passionate defenses

joba_250_052809.jpgBy Jon Lane
Wow! Such fervor on YESNetwork.com these days. The source of it is a 23-year-old kid from Nebraska who set a standard so high as a set-up man that everything he does is measured against it. And each time he fails or simply takes his lumps, his destiny has to be altered permanently.

Yeah, here we go again. Joba Chamberlain belongs in the bullpen. It’s a topic that just won’t go away (at least we’re not discussing PEDs, the height of annoyance, this time) and right now it’s hot. Chamberlain has labored as a starter, Chien-Ming Wang is not in the rotation and everyone in the Yankees ‘pen not named Mariano Rivera can’t be completely trusted. Since we live in a town that demands instant gratification, Joba to the ‘pen will solve all the Yankees’ problems.

I’m not suggesting this is an argument without merit. It is. Chamberlain was fantastic in his eighth-inning role and only midges off Lake Erie dented him in 2007. Pitching out of the ‘pen allows him to go from zero to 100 using his best two pitches (2 > 4, writes Chris Shearn) while thriving off his emotion. Somebody has to eventually replace Rivera and Chamberlain is currently the best candidate to do it. Many made their points and they’re all valid. Kim Jones is practical. Mike Francesa is angry. Jerome Preisler combines passion with historical precedent. You the readers are speaking too. At last check of our homepage poll, it was 171-5 with the belief that Chamberlain will be back in the bullpen before season’s end. I can’t scientifically prove it, but there are probably many who initially believed in Joba the starter have since changed their tune, which is their right.

I’m not budging. Why are we drawing conclusions after 21 career starts? Does Joba have to be Rick Porcello or Justin Verlander, two guys off the top of my head who instantly met (or meeting) success as rookie starters? Do enough people study the cases of Roy Halladay, Tom Glavine or Zack Greinke, the latter who four seasons ago was 5-17 with a 5.80 ERA and now 8-1, 0.84 with five complete games? (Greinke also overcame social anxiety disorder and depression, another layer to his amazing story.)

Another question: Does anyone notice if Chamberlain was pitching in Kansas City?

Look, Joba the starter has been a tease and often frustrating, but 99 out of 100 young starters pegged for greatness experience a learning curve, and some longer than others. If Chamberlain is moved back to the bullpen, you stunt his development and reduce the innings pitched the Yankees are trying to limit anyway. Furthermore, each time Phil Hughes is lights out, he’s the phenom everyone was dreaming about. Every time he bombs – which will happen again – he’s a bust and belongs either in the ‘pen or the Minor Leagues. You can’t have it both ways and the Yankees have made the choice to build not for only this year, but rebuild a program they hope will come close to winning four World Championships in five seasons.

A big part of that is learning from failure and learning how to lose. Chamberlain deserves the same education. Once he’s a finished product he’ll have four dominant out pitches and a fully matured state of mind. I’ll take an elite starter over someone who only gets three outs and isn’t assured of pitching in every close game.

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Another perspective: The problem isn’t Joba the starter. It’s the construction and handling of the current bullpen. Alfredo Aceves needs a defined role and why Jose Veras is continually asked to get big outs I’ll never figure out. David Robertson is back in the bigs. Use him and not just for mop-up duty. Thankfully for the Yankees, Brian Bruney will be back, and this time every extra precaution will be taken. That will leave you with Bruney – not Chamberlain – as your eighth-inning guy, and young guns Robertson, Mark Melancon and Phil Coke as the underbelly.

A nicely-laid plan unless the Yankees manage to swing a deal for Huston Street.

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About Wang: Use him too. Don’t wait another nine days to dust him off, but don’t just shrug your shoulders and put him back into the rotation. Injury or not, Wang’s ERA was still 34.50 after three starts and that’s your judge and jury. Hughes got hurt and failed last year. He’s earning his way back. Now it’s Wang’s turn.

The Wang approach

wang_250_052709.jpgBy Jon Lane
I’m trying to figure out how and why the Yankees are handling Chien-Ming Wang.

Here’s someone coming into 2009 who was 46-15 with a 3.74 ERA in three seasons and slotted in between CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett in the team’s revamped rotation.

Alright, Wang started  0-3 with a 34.50 ERA,
allowing 23 runs on 23 hits over six innings. Apparently he wasn’t completely over the foot injury that ended his season in 2008 and that contributed to the poor results. So the Yankees disable him to allow him to start from the beginning and clear his head. He throws 13 scoreless innings in two rehab games for Triple-A Scranton. One more was scheduled before his return to the big-league rotation, but that was changed when Joba Chamberlain was struck by a line drive in the first
inning of a game last Thursday, which meant Wang was told to return to New York and serve as a needed arm in a depleted bullpen.

That’s fair. You could not blame the Yankees for making a move they didn’t want to make. The problem now is Wang is stuck in purgatory and the reasons are perplexing. Last night, after Chamberlain was removed after laboring for four innings, was the ideal spot to give Wang not just work, but quality work; the score was 3-1 Rangers in the bottom of the fifth.

Alas, Joe Girardi summoned Alfredo Aceves, who for reasons known only to Girardi pitched a meaningless ninth inning of an eventual 11-1 Yankees win the day before. Wang has thrown three innings in the last nine days. Aceves has been the best out of all of Mariano Rivera’s set-up men.

Alas, Aceves (who has been real good) gave up three runs on four hits in two innings and the Yankees lost 7-5. Girardi said Aceves was his choice because he was the hot hand. So why pitch him in garbage time, in the middle of the game, while a two-time 19-game winner is sitting confused on the bench?

Very strange.

“I just felt like we’d go to Ace,” Girardi said.

Meanwhile, it’s hurry up and wait with Wang, out of the rotation with Phil Hughes pitching well and no chance he goes to the Minors because he’s out of options. The Yankees hope A.J. Burnett can turn it up tonight and lead the Yankees to a series win over a first-place team, but would it hurt to give Wang some work?

“This is very hard for me,” Wang told reporters in Arlington, Texas, before yesterday’s game. “At least I could pitch. Now I don’t know what to do.”

And observers of the team are left wondering why.

Read and React: Hughes vs. Wang

By Jon Lane
Read: Great anecdote from Yankees radio announcer Suzyn Waldman, who also pens for WFAN’s Web site, about Phil Hughes and the fire in his belly. Hughes threw eight stellar innings on Monday in an 11-1 win over the Rangers, allowing only three hits and one walk while striking out six in the longest outing of his career.

React: And there are those who believe Hughes is better suited for the bullpen, even though it’s temporary. Look, when it comes to Hughes and Joba Chamberlain, the two most cherished arms in the Yankees organization, this yo-yo business is stupid. Once you make a decision – starter or reliever – you stick to it without messing with a young pitcher’s head or routine. Wisely, the Yankees are keeping Chamberlain in the rotation even with the possibility of Brian Bruney gone for the rest of the season and Hughes will remain among the five, Chien-Ming Wang or no Chien-Ming Wang.

Chamberlain is 23, Hughes is 22. These guys represent today and tomorrow, and have a great chance to be frontline starters within a few years. To quote “Wall Street’s” Lou Mannheim, “Stick to the fundamentals. That’s how IBM and Hilton were built. Good things sometimes take time.”

Read: Wang is stuck in long relief purgatory.

React: Adam Jones’ line drive that hit Chamberlain’s knee last week put the Yankees in a bind, forcing them to forgo Wang’s final Minor League start for immediate bullpen help. He’s off the disabled list and the Yankees can’t demote him because he’ll be exposed to waivers. It has them in a quandary with Hughes pitching well and Wang needing in-game repetitions, but it’s one of those nice ones. Joel Sherman of the New York Post sums it up best:

“Last year, Hughes was handed something he had not earned: a rotation spot. This year he is earning his spot. Will we ever say that about Wang in 2009?”

Read: Damaso Marte, out since April 26 with shoulder inflammation, is in Tampa, but it’ unclear when he will return this season. The Yankees seem to have little interest in his return, writes Peter Abraham

“It’s going to take some time,” Joe Girardi said. “His timetable? We really don’t have a timetable when he will be back.”

React: Three years and $12 million for Marte? Abraham isn’t the first to wonder why the Yankees are quick to share injury information about most players but not Marte.