Joba Chamberlain never quite became the pitcher the New York Yankees hoped he would be after a very promising rookie campaign way back in 2007. Chamberlain was moved in and out of the rotation, battled injures and was just never able to settle down and grow comfortably into a role. He had a few good moments from 2008-13, but he had more than his fair share of bad ones as well. In some circles, Chamberlain was beginning to develop a bit of a reputation for being an immature, unreliable kid who would just never grow up.
Now property of the Detroit Tigers, the 28-year-old Chamberlain is looking to move on from his time in the Bronx and he appears eager to start the next chapter of his career.
It is pertinent to note that Chamberlain is coming off of his worst season to date. In 2013, he had a bloated ERA of 4.93, averaged 5.6 walks per nine innings pitched and had the highest WHIP of his career at 1.738 — not very pretty. However, Chamberlain could very easily show just how beneficial a change of scenery can be for a player this coming season.
Based on everything that has been reported, Chamberlain appears to have a new sense of focus and purpose. Many of his peers have commented on his new-found maturity and have spoken of how he seems like an entirely different person. Chamberlain is also said to have been eating healthier, and he has apparently dropped 15-20 pounds this offseason. It is clear that Chamberlain has put in a lot of time and effort, and he can be expected to reap the benefits.
The Tigers also added one of the best closers of the past decade this winter in Joe Nathan, and Chamberlain should really benefit from his presence. All pitchers yearn for an older mentor such as Nathan, and it should be interesting to see how Nathan can impact Chamberlain’s game.
Manager Brad Ausmus has recently expressed a desire to have one man solidify the eighth inning setup role and has stated that Chamberlain and the young flame-thrower Bruce Rondon will be the two candidates competing for the job. If Chamberlain has a strong spring, he should have an excellent chance to win and be the man who gets the ball to Nathan.
The 23-year-old Rondon has a dynamite arm, but he lacks the maturity and experience of Chamberlain. Although Rondon pitched brilliantly at times last season, he was erratic at times as well. Chamberlain possesses a quality that cannot be taught but can only come from having played which may very easily give him the edge over Rondon.
At any rate, regardless of whether Chamberlain ends up being the Tigers’ eighth inning man or their seventh inning man, one can just sense that he is going to have a good year. Although he has been given a very small sample size, he has not yet been scored upon in Spring Training as everything just seems to be going his way.
If Chamberlain can manage to post an ERA below 3.00 and average a strikeout per inning pitched, which he should be more than capable of doing, he will certainly make Ausmus’ job a lot easier in 2014.