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New York Yankee notes: Wondering about Joba

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We as New York Yankees fans are constantly being reminded not to get caught up in Spring Training results, especially right now when it comes to the fifth starter competition.

It is true that no one is in regular season form, and that both pitchers and hitters may well be doing things differently than they will once the games actually begin to mean something. I mean, c'mon, if you think Austin Jackson is a better player than Curtis Granderson just because of one week of Spring Training you are just plain silly. And your opinion isn't worth bothering with.

When it comes to who will be the fifth starter Yankee Manager Joe Girardi said the results of the first couple of spring outings are really not important. That might be good news for the struggling Joba Chamberlain and bad news for the currently un-hittable Alfredo Aceves.

At this point, though, I do believe it is fair to wonder about Chamberlain. As the New York Post does.

Joba Chamberlain says he knows the deal when it comes to the fifth starter’s spot in Joe Girardi’s rotation.

Now he has to start pitching like it.

"I understand what’s at stake," Chamberlain said after getting spanked by the Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium yesterday in a 9-8 Yankees victory. "You got to get better. You can’t worry about what [the competition] is doing. There is a sense of urgency but not a panic button."

Chamberlain is correct: Two outings into spring training isn’t time to panic. Chamberlain’s body of work — since walking off a Texas mound with a shoulder problem on Aug. 4, 2008, that forced him to miss a month — has been pedestrian.

In 42 games (31 starts), Chamberlain is 9-6 with a 4.59 ERA and has given up 178 hits in 1682⁄3 innings, walked 79 and fanned 147. That’s too many hits and not an acceptable walk-to-strikeout ratio.

Yes, the Yankees didn’t help him last year in the second half, when they limited his innings as a starter. And he is 24. But by now the Yankees believed Chamberlain would at least be close to a top-of-the-rotation hurler.

When Chamberlain surfaced in 2007, he charged out of the bullpen with a blazing fastball, filthy slider and was embraced by everybody. As a starter, there have been glimpses of that stuff but nothing sustained.

When Chamberlain pitches Tuesday against the Astros, he will be facing the biggest spring training game of his young career. Because if Girardi is telling the truth — and there is no reason to believe he isn’t — Chamberlain’s evaluation clock will begin ticking loudly.

Whether you believe Joba should be a starter or a reliever is not really my point. I think we all believed Joba would be a star. Maybe we still do. But, pedestrian is exactly the right word. He threw harder as a reliever during the 2009 playoffs, but he was nowhere near lights out. 

So, I do think it is fair to begin to wonder if Joba will ever meet the expectations he created for himself way back in 2007.

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