Joba Chamberlain of the New York Yankees certainly has seen the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. It was just five short years ago that he burst onto the scene—seemingly out of nowhere—and struck out 34 batters in 24 innings for the "Bronx Bombers."
The stuff he exhibited—high 90s fastball and sharp, devastating breaking balls—gave everyone hope of a bright future for the young star.
Since then it has been "rocky" to say the least.
In 2008, Joba began the season in the Yankee bullpen, but early in the year was moved into the rotation at the behest of owner Hank Steinbrenner. That season ended in August with rotator cuff tendinitis and Chamberlain finished with a 4-3 record and a 2.60 ERA.
In 2009, Joba had 31 starts for New York with mediocre results as he went 9-6 with a 4.75 ERA and his WHIP ballooned from a 1.256 to 1.544 (leading the league in hit batsmen with 12). By the end of the season he had been placed back into the bullpen and only saw limited (6.1 innings) action during the team's postseason run to the title.
The next season, Joba was used strictly as a reliever, making appearances in 78 games to slightly improved results (3-4 with a 4.40 ERA and 1.298 WHIP). As the year went along, he seemed more comfortable in the bullpen and his statistics for August and September of 2010 show his ERA over that time was a very respectable 2.38.
2011 began with promise for Joba Chamberlain as he took over the seventh-inning role out of the Yankee bullpen when Rafael Soriano went on the disabled list. In his first 27 appearances he carried a 2.83 ERA and 1.047 WHIP displaying some of the "old" Joba that the Yankees and their fans had longed for.
It all came to a screeching halt in June when he tore a ligament in his elbow and had to undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery.
The roller-coaster career of Joba Chamberlain once again began to plummet.
This spring training opened with the Yankees expecting to have Chamberlain as a weapon by midseason following rehab from the surgery (see article by Joel Sherman of the New York Post).
Unfortunately, once again hope for Joba has been replaced by disappointment. On March 22nd, while playing on a trampoline with his son, Chamberlain severely dislocated his right ankle—requiring emergency surgery.
The question that now lies on the table is whether Joba will pitch for the Yankees in 2012. Can he recuperate fast enough to actually contribute this season?
As reported by ESPN.com, manager Joe Girardi is optimistic that the once-promising pitcher will be on the mound before the end of the season. Joba believes that he will be pitching in the majors this season while general manager Brian Cashman remains non-committal on the topic.
For now, the fallen star must focus on rehabbing both his arm and his ankle before even considering stepping onto the diamond again. In the months to come a clearer picture into his future will develop and the Yankee faithful will know what course the Chamberlain roller coaster is taking.
Only hard work and some luck can allow Joba to make his way back onto the Yankee active roster in 2012. Prior to the latest injury, it appeared that he is capable of making that happen. As long as he remains focused on his goal, he can provide Joe Girardi with something to think about heading into the final months of the season.