When Joba Chamberlain made his debut for the New York Yankees in 2007, he lived up to his top prospect status, striking out hitters and leaving them in a dust.
The following season, Chamberlain began the year in the Yankees bullpen while the team worked on transitioning him into a starter. He pitched well in both roles, posting a 2.31 ERA and registering 19 holds in 35 innings as a reliever and a 3-1 record with a 2.76 ERA in 65.1 innings as a starter.
However, his season ended with him on the disabled list after suffering a shoulder injury in August.
The following season, Chamberlain was a starter for the whole season, as he made 31 starts and just on appearance as a reliever. However, he encountered his some struggles, and during the 2009 postseason, the Yankees elected to have him work out of the bullpen, where the righty excelled, allowing just two earned runs in 6.1 innings.
Since 2010, Chamberlain has not made a single start for the Yankees.
In 122 relief appearances over the past three seasons, he’s posted a 6-4 record with a 4.02 ERA, striking out 123 hitters over 121 innings with 42 holds and three saves. Included in that time was rehab from Tommy John surgery in 2011, and an ankle injury during the off-season that limited him to 22 appearances to end the 2012 season. Despite the injuries, he’s done his job well as a reliever for the Yankees.
All of this brings us to this current Spring Training and Chamberlain’s thoughts on him still believing he can be a starter.
During an interview, Chamberlain was asked if he could be the Yankees closer of the future, and he said he could. However, he continued the answer by saying he still believes his future with the Yankees and in the big leagues is as a starter.
With Chamberlain entering free agency after the season, he could just be trying to pump up his profile. However, at least for this 2013 season, Chamberlain should just be concentrating on his job out of the Yankees bullpen, where he will help the team the most.
Even with the back injury to Phil Hughes, the Yankees have enough depth for the starting rotation. If Hughes was to miss extended time, the Yankees have David Phelps and Ivan Nova who can cover the No.4 and No.5 spots. The team even has another option in minor league starter Adam Warren, and Michael Pineda could help the team sometime in July.
With the departure of Rafael Soriano to the Washington Nationals, Chamberlain will be counted on the most to make up his innings. While the team is set at the closer role with baseball’s all-time saves leader Mariano Rivera and an All-Star set-up man David Robertson, Chamberlain will probably be the seventh inning set-up man Soriano was in 2011 and at the start of the 2012 season.
His value to the Yankees is in the bullpen, not the starting rotation.
While it’s understandable that Chamberlain is looking towards his future, he should keep his mind on the present and being the best reliever he can be for the Yankees.