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Look out, Baseball’s version of Freddy Kruger is sneaking up behind you once again.  Speaking to reporters at the annual Thurman Munson awards dinner last night, Joba Chamberlain commented on the issue that never seems to die, Joba the Starter vs Joba the Reliever. Here’s what he said:

“Being down [in the bullpen] for two stints, you get to see how good [Rivera] is, and you know there is going to have to be somebody who comes behind him that replaces the legacy that is Mariano,” Chamberlain said. “If that opportunity comes, great. If we sit down and they say that, then we’ll get after it.”

But even as the Yankees appear intent on shifting Chamberlain back to a set-up role, the right-hander said his total focus is on starting.

Chamberlain plans to report to Tampa for spring training on Monday, more than a week before pitchers and catchers are required to arrive.

“I made 31 starts last year, and hopefully I’ll make the same and get about 200 innings,” Chamberlain said. “As a competitor, you want to be out there every fifth day [starting]. I want that opportunity. I have to go out and prove it, and I understand that. I like it that way.”

(snip)

“The biggest difference is that, as a starter, you know you’re going to have to face a guy maybe three, four or five times,” Chamberlain said.

“In the bullpen, you’re only going to face him once, so you don’t really have to set him up. You don’t have to worry about, ‘OK, I got him out on a curveball in his first at-bat.’ That’s the biggest difference, the planning in the game of how you are going to get guys out.”

A few things here. First, the guy who replaces Mariano River might as well be working with Mike Rowe cleaning out a grease trap. That will be one of the more impossible tasks imaginable. It’s good to be young and confident in your abilities, but you don’t want that job. He would have to pull off a repeat of his 2007 0.77 ERA dominance in order to make fans and the media happy.

Next, I don’t doubt for one minute that he’s currently more comfortable working out of the bullpen. As he stated himself, it’s a far easier task. One that a young pitcher who is finding his way at the professional level would find less challenging. Working out of the bullpen simplifies his approach and allows him to just go out there and air it out. But at the end of the day it’s really not about his approach, ‘Bulldog’ mentality, or the adrenaline rush he gets working out of the bullpen that the B-Jobbers seem to find so persuasive.  It’s just about executing pitches, whether it’s the 1st, 5th or 8th inning. As a young pitcher, he’s still learning how to blend what he has working on any given day (or in any particular inning) and learning the opposing batters strengths and weaknesses. But that will come in time.

The main reason why he was so good out of the bullpen in 07/08 is that he’s overqualified for the job. Given his repertoire, it would be a waste to stick him in the bullpen when he has the stuff to not just be a good, but a top starting pitcher. How soon people forget, but he pitched to a 2.76 ERA as a starter back in 2008 and shows flashes of brilliance last year as well, so we know it’s there. Yankee fans aren’t known for their patience, but this is all part of the process of developing starting pitching. Like stocks, very few go up in a straight line. There are bumps along the way and if you believe in a player, you stick with him.

This will be the first season Joba will have the training wheels off completely and we will get to see him go out every five days as a full-fledged starter. If he fails miserably, and last year was the beginning of a downward trend, you could always flip him and Hughes mid-season. But until then, he’s a starter and lets just put this tired debate to rest.

7 Responses to “Here we go again-Joba Open to Bullpen Role”

  1. I don’t know, maybe Joba has finally been beaten down to the point that he feels being a bullpen guy is what’s best. The problem is, if he does believe that the bullpen might be what’s best, his starting days are numbered. It’s a self fulfilling prophecy, one that is being perpetrated by the media. As a therapist, I will try not to get too preachy, but a person can only hear so many times that they belong in a certain. If a child in a family takes on the role of the scapegoat and allows all the discipline to be given to them, eventually they believe they deserve it. Joba had some rough patches in the season, was successful in the pen, hears from everyone that the pen is where he belongs, and if hefinally starts to believe it then he will struggle as a starter because he won’t have the faith he belongs there.

    In the end, this is a business for these guys, and starters get paid far more then relievers. This is a major reason why these guys want to be starters. That said, if he believes the pen is best (and from the way I read those comments, it seems he might) then the media has won out. I just wonder what will be said when he isn’t throwing 100 MPH every outing from the pen, and he isn’t the same pitcher from a couple years ago. I would bet that instead of blaming it on the shoulder injury, the media will place the blame on the Yankees for “being so stubborn, thinking he is a starter and ruining him for life!!!!!!!” After all, they have to write/complain about something.  (Quote)

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  2. I tweeted this but Joba, Hughes, whoever neither will ever be the “Heir” to Mo…its’ impossible! Mo in 133.1 IP in postseason has given up only 11ER. Joba and Hughes in only 22 postseason IP (all out of relief) have given up the same amount…11 ER. I understand Joba’s first 24IP in the majors was terrific, but to think that’s how he will perform in the pen for his career is fool hearty. Lastly, if you look at Joba vs Hughes and the repertoire of pitches, Joba has a wider array and his better suited to be an effective SP.  (Quote)

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  3. Let Joba start. As for replacing Mo, nobody could ever replace Goose Gossage, Sparky Lyle or John Wetteland, to name just three irreplaceable Yankee relievers.  (Quote)

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  4. I have the utmost faith in Joba to emerge from ST as the team’s 5th starter. Joba’s schedule won’t be tinkered with after he hits the 100 inning count, so the fans get to really see Joba The Starter withstand, and hopefully, execute his pitches the whole season. Barring a degradation in FB command and break on the slider, Joba is expected to silence critics at the end of 2010. Jmo though.  (Quote)

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    Steve S. Reply:

    I really think he’s going to have a big season as well, but I thought that last year.  (Quote)

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  5. Bear with me here for a moment. What are the chances – however minuscule – that the Yankees employ a six-man rotation at some point this season? It’s definitely an “out of the box” idea and there are a lot of ‘what if’s’ that would need to come to fruition but, I just get a feeling that it could be a good idea at some point during the second half. Obviously we hope this won’t happen but, is it terribly difficult to imagine a scenario in which we lose A.J. Burnett or Andy Pettitte for a few starts and then, in their absence, Phil Hughes dominates? Is it terribly difficult to imagine Joba having a solid season as well? IF you have Hughes and Chamberlain doing well in the 4th and 5th spots in the rotation, what happens when the injured pitcher comes back? You’re not going to put any of the four vets in the ‘pen. You could certainly entertain the idea of putting either Hughes or Joba back there but, in a scenario in which they are both performing well and making positive strides in their development, that would not seem like the smart thing to do – especially with Javy Vazquez and Pettitte hitting free agency after the season. So, like I said, a few things would need to happen before a six-man rotation made any sense at all. I’m just curious to what some other people think. Does this make any sense or am I just in need of a nice little reality check?  (Quote)

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    Moshe Mandel Reply:

    No, it makes sense for guys like Pettitte and Burnett, who might appreciate the rest, but Im not so sure if you want to be taking innings from CC and Javy and giving them to Joba and Hughes. Unless you keep CC and Javy on a regular schedule, which would be a logistical nightmare, I dont think this will help the club. If both are pitching well and you dont want to send one to the pen, send him to the minors until the playoffs.  (Quote)

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