False start for Chamberlain, Yanks
That was the collective thought running through the minds of the 53,629 fans who showed up at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday night to watch
But if they came hoping to see a turning point, what they got instead was another twist in the ongoing Chamberlain circus, a disappointing performance that offered more questions than answers, both from Chamberlain and the bullpen buddies he left behind. In the longest outing of his brief career, Joba definitely did not rule. He lasted 62 pitches, throwing 32 for strikes. He allowed only one hit and fanned three but walked four in 2 1/3 innings.
Gone was the Chamberlain that has been a sensation in New York since his callup last August, despite only pitching 47 2/3 innings: a flamethrowing phenom who punctuated his strikeouts with exuberant fist pumps and whose mere presence seemed sure to signal a Yankees victory. But, charged with putting the Yankees on the winning track from the first inning on rather than keeping them there in the late innings as he had as a reliever, Joba faltered right from the beginning.
Greeted by a standing ovation as he walked to the mound, and engulfed by flash bulbs as he threw his first pitch, it was immediately obvious that this was not a normal start and, aside from a fastball he threw past leadoff batter
The 38-pitch inning was more than halfway to his prescribed pitch limit of 65-70 (Yankees manager
"Time will tell," said Girardi. "You don't make an evaluation in a two week period. It's still his first start. You can't forget that."
Nor can it be forgotten that the Yankees really didn't learn much of anything about Chamberlain on Tuesday night. Even acknowledging that long-term forecasts are difficult to project from such a small sample size, it was the pitches Chamberlain did not throw that were nearly as noteworthy as the ones he did. He entered the game with, as Toronto manager
What the Blue Jays did that could offer a lesson to future opponents was to not swing much at all. While Chamberlain said he used his emotions to his advantage and vowed to "attack the zone" more in the future, it's hard not to think that he was guilty of overthrowing and the Blue Jays refused to nibble at his pitches just off the edge. Until Chamberlain proves he can harness his emotion at the start of a game and throw strikes, teams will be wise to do the same.
More will be known after Chamberlain's next start, Sunday against the Royals in New York, when he is expected to stretch to 75-80 pitches. So much thus far about his performance has been about the number one: one inning at a time, one time facing a hitter in a game, one (potential) jam to escape from. Once Chamberlain is forced to do those things multiple times in a single outing will the true answers about this move start to arrive.
If his value as a starter was difficult to discern from his 53-minute cameo, his value as a reliever came into even sharper focus. Handed a manageable 3-2 deficit, a trio of seventh-inning relievers (
Of course, by that time, Chamberlain's night was long over. The Yankees' road to figuring out whether this will work or not, has only just begun.