Via Joel Sherman -
It was impossible to ignore, and the Yankees didn’t ignore it.
Words were not needed. Joba Chamberlain’s body language screamed confidence and the scoreboard flashed 97 mph. Here at the end of his most taxing season, Chamberlain was a strutting fire-breather again. In the postseason. As a reliever.
The difference from the starter who too often was tentative and too frequently throwing fastballs at 89-91 mph was stark. As one Yankees official noted recently, “It was hard to miss.”
The transformation was so blatant, in fact, that the No. 5 starter competition between Chamberlain and Phil Hughes is almost over two weeks before pitchers and catchers even report.
The Yankees never would admit it publicly, but if the season were to begin today, Hughes would be in the rotation and Joba would be Mariano Rivera’s primary set-up man — and, perhaps, heir apparent.
Yeah, let’s put Hughes in the rotation – because we know he lacks a third pitch that’s required when facing a line-up more than one time in a game, and, we know that his fastball – as a starter – is more in the 89-91 MPH range and then requires pinpoint control to be successful. Makes perfect sense, right?
Hey, I have no issue with Chamberlain in the pen, if that’s what the Yankees want to do. But, what about having him in the pen with Phil Hughes?
Sure, I know, there’s not a lot of room out there with Rivera, Marte, Robertson and Aceves…and perhaps Melancon and/or Gaudin. And, of course, there’s no room in the “budget” to acquire another starting pitcher like…say…Jarrod Washburn to be a fifth starter.
But, the thought of counting on Phil Hughes to make 30 starts and provide 165+ quality innings, at this stage of his career, based on what we’ve seen from him so far, makes no sense, whatsoever.
At this junction, I think the Yankees have no choice but to go with Joba in the fifth slot. (Don’t even mention Sergo Mitre, OK?) He may have some issues – but, the other choices, given the way the Yankees are now, make little sense.