It had been the New York Yankees plan all along to ease Joba Chamberlin into their starting rotation, with high hopes that he would eventually become the future ace of a overpaid, aging staff. His youth, flair and blazing fastball would carry a team from the cellar of the AL East back into the promise land. He’d save Hank Steinbrenner from humiliation and lead the Bronx Bombers, one start at a time, back into playoff contention.
After New York’s 9-3 loss Tuesday against the Toronto Blue Jays, it looks like Joba never got that memo.
On a very strict pitch count, Chamberlain lasted only 2 1/3 innings throwing 62 pitches, only 32 of them for strikes. He allowed 2 runs, on 1 hit but surrendered 4 walks in the outing. His 38 pitches in the 1st inning were the most he’s ever thrown in one frame, 14 more then his previous 1 inning high.
“I wanted to get my team a lot deeper into the game and it wasn’t very good,” Chamberlain said. “That’s what it comes down to. I’ve got to be better, that’s for sure.”
After Joba escaped the 1st inning only allowing 1 run, his teammates picked him up and immediately put 2 runs up on the board in the bottom half of the inning. Hideki Matsui and Jason Giambi knocked in RBI singles to put the Yanks ahead 2-1.
Joba then worked a perfect 2nd inning retiring the Blue Jays in order but was yanked by manager Joe Girardi after a four pitch walk to Alex Rios with 1 out in the 3rd inning.
“It’s his first start,” Girardi said. “He wasn’t quite as sharp as he probably wanted to be but in saying that, he kept us in the game.”
With that said, yes, he may have kept the Yankees in the game for the first 7 outs but in hindsight was starting Joba a good idea? The Yankees bullpen allowed 6 runs in the 7th inning, a frame that Chamberlain would often work out of the pen.
By patching up the rotation with Chamberlain, the Yankees now find themselves with a new hole between their starting pitchers exit and Marino Rivera’s entrance to games in the closer spot. The likes of Dan Giese, Jose Veras, Edwar Ramirez, LaTroy Hawkins and Chris Britton doesn’t exactly leave anyone in Yankee Stadium feeling comfortable during the late middle innings of any game, no matter what the score is.
Ever since the Yankees called Chamberlin up to the big leagues late last season, the organization has been adamant that the plan was and always has been to turn him into a starting pitcher. His success as a set up man was supposed to be just a tease as to what he would be able to do for 7+ innings every start.
For the time being, forget about 7 innings. Yesterday, Chamberlin had trouble getting 7 outs.
“It was the first step, that’s all,” said team co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner, who watched the game in his office at the Yankees’ facility in Tampa, Fla. “Again, he’s 22. This was the first step. We’re looking at a 10 year or more career. Tonight was a creation of the media. If this had been a first start for any other pitcher on any other team, it wouldn’t have been such a big deal.”
Sorry to tell ya, Hank, but the media didn’t create this but you did. Remember last year when you came out with the ‘Joba Rules’ and limited your prodigy to so many innings of work. Remember when you insisted during the 2008 preseason that your young star was still on track to be in the starting rotation for opening day but didn’t want to rush his progress. Or do you remember when your team was in last place in the division and in a struggling attempt to create any type of positive hype about your franchise you prematurely decided it was time to throw your franchises untouchable prospect into the rotation in a last ditch effort to turn things around.
Oh, wait. That was last night.
For the Yankees to turn this season around its going to take more then one young arm. They need veterans like Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina to start to pitching deeper into games, which could be asking a lot considers Pettitte is going on 36 years old and has logged over 2,600 career innings. At 39 years old, Mussina is even more seasoned and has hurled over 3,420 innings. The two are averaging 5 2/3 innings per start, leaving the bullpen responsible for roughly 10 outs a game.
Joba had been reliable for 3 – 6 of those outs but will no longer be available out of the pen. Asking Rivera to record more then a 3 out saves is asking a lot, maybe too much from the 38 year old.
The hardest thing for Hank and the rest of the Yankees organization to admit is that they are currently transitioning from one era to the next. Some even call this transition a rebuilding year but no, no, no not Hank Steinbrenner. How that happens to a team that has the leagues highest payroll, 2007 AL MVP and countless former All-Stars is almost unfathomable.
It’s gut check time in New York; Hank and the rest of his front office staff better be careful with their decisions regarding the franchises future because if they’re not, players will begin to jump off the already sinking ship, demanding trades left and right. A-Rod already bought some floaties.