When he is on, Joba Chamberlain has the ability to deliver four different pitches to the plate and do so in a way that will cause the batter to curse out his mother. He displayed an effective slider against the Cincinnati Reds in his last spring outing, while managing to bring some of that heat that has been missing during spring training. In his longest stint of the preseason, going 5 and 1/3 innings, he was getting the fastball up around 93-96 mph. However, he is still showing that when he runs out of gas, he does so in a hurry. Chamberlain is a classic power pitcher who needs time to ramp up to the heat and fades fast. If this continues, the Yankees may have to reconsider and put him back in the bullpen. As of right now, he is just an average starter, but a reliever who can blow hitters away at the back end of the game.
Chamberlain’s best game as a starter, and subsequently his longest career outing, came last year when he pitched seven scoreless innings against the Boston Red Sox in a 1-0 Yankees win. He started last season as a reliever out of the bullpen before he was transitioned into the starting rotation in May. Chamberlain had his struggles as a starter and as a reliever. He spent time on the DL during the 2008 season with rotator cuff tendonitis and manager Joe Girardi is planning on limiting Chamberlain to about 150 innings of work this season.
The Yankees upgraded their starting rotation over the winter and their No. 5 starter, Chamberlain, is a question mark. So far in his preseason games, Joba has not put to rest the question of whether he is better suited to be a starter or a reliever. Many believe that he has the ability to be a 15 game winner, but needs to become a more efficient pitcher. If he can learn to utilize the other pitches in his repertoire to set up his fastball, he won’t just be known as the guy who can throw hard. Chamberlain undeniably rounds out a very formidable starting pitching rotation that includes CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, Chien-Ming Wang, and Andy Pettitte, which may lessen the pressure on him and help him find success as a major league starter.
All eyes will be on the hard throwing right-hander to see if he can hang as the fifth starter throughout a whole season. Chamberlain understands the expectations being placed on him and has stated that knowing he had a spot in the starting rotation made it possible for him to better prepare for 2009. The debate about Joba Chamberlain is not over yet and Yankee fans are going to anxiously look for his 96 mph fastball when he takes the mound in the regular season. Here’s hoping he was just saving himself for the real thing.