It doesn't happen often that I agree with newspaper writers.
I still think GM Brian Cashman's indication that Chamberlain will again begin next season in the bullpen as a way to protect his inning workload is wrong. You don't train for the marathon running sprints and you don't put a dragster on the track for the Daytona 500. I think the only way to train Chamberlain to get through an entire season as a starter is let him do just that: Go from soup to nuts as a member of the rotation. I just feel that the idea of having him prepare as a starter in spring, then flip him for two months to the bullpen and then switch him back to the rotation in June is potentially just as problematic for his arm and certainly not preparing his mind and body for the task envisioned: Front-of-the-rotation starter.
I believe there is an enlightened way to use him over the year so that he can only be a starter and you can also protect him; well, protect him as well as you can protect a young fireballer with such violence in his motion. The Yanks should use him in the fifth spot coming out of spring training. They should always use off-days to give him extra rest. They should limit him to 75-90 pitches for the first two months. They should deploy a sixth starter once a month to give him even more rest/reduce his overall workload. They should -- of course -- back off of him at any sign of out-of-the-ordinary pain/injury. Maybe they will get fortunate and actually meet their offseason goal of signing free agent CC Sabathia, which would mean the Yanks have a horse at No. 1, which would allow them to use as much bullpen as they want the day before Sabathia starts to support the No. 5 (Chamberlain) starter.
My idea for this season was to use Joba the whole year as a starter, resting him about once every three to four times through the rotation, and that's still my preferred method for 2009. If we assume he reaches 100 innings (and doesn't go to the Arizona Fall League), he'll be on pace for about 130-140 innings next year. If he makes 23 starts, and averages six innings a start, that will put him at exactly 138 innings. Right in line with where he should be. It allows him to jump to 170 innings in 2010 and allows him to use his full arsenal, because the only way his changeup and curveball will improve is to start.
If they are going to have him relieve next year, they should start him as a starter, and convert him when he nears his innings limit, not the other way around (like this year). It's much easier to transition from starting to relieving than vice versa. There wouldn't have to be any stretching out period. You can go right from pitching six innings to pitching one. It also allows him to concentrate on starting in spring training.
- A look at the starting pitcher free agent market. Oliver Perez and Jon Garland would be welcome, if unspectacular additions.
(Thanks to MLB Trade Rumors for some of the links.)