The New York Post stirred the 'Joba Chamberlain vs. Phil Hughes for 5th starter' pot this morning, so we might as well discuss it.
In a poll earlier this off-season we asked you who you would favor for the 5th starter between the two young New York Yankee right-handers. An overwhelming majority of 69% of you voted for Hughes.
If the Post is right -- and you do have to wonder if the good old NYP sometimes just makes stuff up -- then the Yankees organization quietly agrees with the majority here at PA.
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.
For that to change, one of two issues probably must occur in spring:
1) Hughes flops (a possibility if he does not better hone a changeup), or,
2) A main veteran starter goes down (a possibility, especially considering the heavy workloads endured last season by CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte).
This is not easy for the Yanks. They truly have believed Chamberlain's pitch inventory was that of a starter. Plus, they have endured the criticism of the Joba Rules to navigate to this moment when he would have few restrictions as a starter.
But by morphing back into a confident, dart-throwing reliever in the postseason, Chamberlain has pushed the Yanks to more seriously consider that he might not have been suffering rotation growing pains and, instead, simply is more temperamentally built to work out of the pen.
I have thought about this question a lot, as I'm sure many of you have as well. I truly believe that both guys can succeed no matter which role they are placed in. Yet, a decision has to be made. So, as things stand now here is mine.
Hughes should start. Chamberlain should set up Mariano Rivera, and set his mind on becoming the closer once Rivera finally retires. In the end, that is the best way to maximize the obvious talent each possesses.
I truly believe that if both guys are starting pitchers for the next 5-7 years we will look and see that Chamberlain will be fine, but Hughes will likely be far more successful. I just believe he has starter stuff and a starter temperament. I also think that, ultimately, Chamberlain will break down.
I understood and defended the Yankees trying to find out what type of starter Chamberlain could be. We still don't really know, since he was so inconsistent in 2009. What we do know is that he is completely different coming out of the bullpen -- more aggressive, more emotional, throwing harder fastballs and sharper sliders. Joba is built for the high-wire act of baseball's late innings.