Preston Claiborne is one of many pleasant surprises for the New York Yankees
this season. The question is whether he is likely to continue to produce at the same high-level that he has contributed so far?
Memories of Joba Chamberlain’s rookie season make fans skeptical before they become convinced that a pitcher has officially arrived. Certainly, Chamberlain has established himself. But he has not maintained the lights out, not- hittable pace that he showed when he broke in.
The reasons that Claiborne’s plight should evolve differently start with the lesson that the Yankees learned from the handling of Chamberlain. So far, there are no “Joba Rules” in effect. Claiborne is called on when needed, not coddled. Holding a player back to preserve him only invites an injury.
Plus, the Yankees are not asking him to jump back and forth as a reliever and a starter, as they did with Chamberlain. He was a reliever throughout his minor league career, and that is all the Yankees are asking him to do. It is easier to go to work when your job description is clear.
On the mound, Claiborne has improved his control. In the minor leagues he walked 30 batters in 81 innings in 2011 and followed that with 36 walks in 82 innings in 2012. He has yet to issue a walk for the Yankees this season.
His improved control has also resulted in strike outs. At Scranton Wilkes- Barre this year, he improved his strike outs per inning pitched by fanning ten batters in 10.1 innings. In New York, he has five strike outs in eight innings.
So the Yankees have a solid righty-lefty combination in Claiborne and Vidal Nuno. If Nuno’s ultimate role is in the bullpen, manager Joe Girardi can limit the appearances of both of them. Not only does this help to keep their arms fresh, lessening their likelihood of injury, but it also slows the ability of opponents to build up plate appearances against them. Fewer plate appearances means less familiarity with the movement of their pitches.
Best of all, there are no “Joba Rules” to slow them down.