Joba Chamberlain has never lived up to expectations for the New York Yankees. But that hasn't stopped the Texas Rangers from showing some interest in the pitcher.
Sensing the Yankees might have bullpen depth, the Rangers are following Joba Chamberlain.
Don Welke, a senior special assistant to Texas general manager Jon Daniels, was at Steinbrenner Field on Monday specifically to watch Chamberlain pitch an inning against St. Louis.
King adds, "A healthy Chamberlain would deepen the Yankees’ bullpen, but they have options in David Aardsma and Shawn Kelley to use in front of setup man David Robertson."
Chamberlain's career has been one of lofty expectations and continuously changing roles. He started in the bullpen for the Yankees, and then they moved him to starter. They then moved him back to the bullpen before the injury bug finally hit, including Tommy John surgery in 2011.
It's fair to wonder if constantly changing roles had anything to do with that.
And just to add a little fuel to the fire, Chamberlain himself commented that he would like to be a starter this spring (via Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News):
This is probably going to spark a bunch of stuff and (Yankees PR director Jason) Zillo is going to be mad at me, but it’s one of those things where it’s like, do you think you have the capability to start? Yes. Do I have four pitches that I can throw for a strike? Yes. Do I have two plus pitches in the bullpen that I can throw at any time? Yes.
"I guess I’m trying to have my cake and eat it, too. I feel like I’m good enough to do both. I’ve proven that I can do both. Whatever it is, if I close, I want to be one or the other. I’ve been in the role of in the bullpen for a while, but am I confident that if I got the chance to start again somewhere—wherever that’s at—I could do it? Without a doubt.
As a starter, Chamberlain is 12-7 with a 4.18 ERA and 206 strikeouts in 221.2 innings pitched. As a reliever, he has at times looked like a guy who could easily close games for a team, though his recent struggle with arm injuries hasn't helped.
The Rangers are pretty solid in the rotation, so their interest in Chamberlain would likely be to fill a late-inning relief role.
Chamberlain will be a free agent after the season, so no matter what team he plays for this year, he'll likely test the waters in free agency next year to see if a market develops for him as a starting pitcher.
Then again, if he regains his magic of old in the bullpen for the Yankees—or the Rangers, for that matter—he could entice some teams to sign him as a closer.