Should Joba Chamberlain Move to the Starting Rotation?

Michael SamuelSenior Analyst IMay 21, 2008

And let the great Joba debate begin!

During his postgame press conference, Joe Girardi said that Joba Chamberlain will begin his transition from Mariano Rivera's set-up man to starting pitcher. 

This issue is deeper than whether or not Joba should be a starter or reliever. The way this plays out could directly affect the Yankees' play on the field for the NEXT 10 YEARS.

First of all, this decision should have been made in February, down in Tampa, instead of right before Memorial Day while the Yankees were in the midst of a four-game losing streak. While the Yankees have said it was their plan all along to move Joba from reliever to starter, this idea is wrong.

The Yankees want to make this transition as easy as possible, but by having him build up his arm in the Bronx instead of in Scranton-Wilkes Barre, it will not be as easy as they think it is. I was at the game tonight, and when listening to John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman's postgame show on WCBS 880, I was shocked to hear that Joba would be eventually becoming a starter. 

For a starting pitcher to build up their arm, it is usually done in meaningless Spring Training games. But the idea that Joba will be pitching in the late innings to build up his arm is absolutely LUDICRIOUS. It is a completely different mind set to pitch in the seventh and eighth inning as opposed to taking the rubber to open a game.

The reason I believe this decision was made now was simply because of the pressure Hank, the younger son of George Steinbrenner, was putting on GM Brian Cashman. Steinbrenner made it known that Cashman has to win now, because of the $208 million  payroll and no World Series title since 2000.

Brian Cashman wanted to keep Joba in the reliever role, a role which I think is correct for the moment, because it is simply a bad idea to juggle with Joba's role in the middle of the season. Overall though, he is best suited for a starter in the long run, because of his command of four pitches. 

The Yankees have seen what their hated rival in Boston have with Josh Beckett, a dominant right hander with a very lively arm, who has the intensity to be a big-game pitcher, and Hal Steinbrenner salivates over what could be of Joba Chamberlain. 

It will be interesting to see when exactly Joba will make his debut. If he has no setbacks, he probably will pitch around July 1. They will be playing the Texas Rangers on the first and second, but on July 3-6, they play a four-game set against, who else, but the Boston Red Sox.

July 4 is George Steinbrenner's birthday, and could you imagine the birthday present for the boss: how about Joba's first start, seven-inning pitched and maybe 10 Ks?  That is what the Yankees, as well as the rest of the "Evil Empire", will hope for.

The question though, has to be raised: Is this move simply a knee-jerk reaction? 

The Red Sox have won six straight at this point. While Rasner has pitched well in his three starts, Mussina recently tied his career low of two-thirds of an inning in his start last night. Wang was shaky Sunday night on national television, to go along with getting swept in what ended up being a two-game set against their cross-town rival Mets.

But what if Ian Kennedy and Phil Hughes had pitched better? They would not be at 21-25, but maybe they would be above .500, and a team with more confidence and young pitchers who had proven that they were worth not trading for Johan Santana.

That is a separate issue though, because if the GM felt that they should keep the young pitchers, then that is his decision. He is the one in that evaluates the players and makes the decisions that he feels are best for his team.

For the sake of Yankee fans everywhere, hopefully Joba will turn into the ace of this staff, and will help to provide pitching depth. Another challenge will be finding a new eighth-inning pitcher. Ohlendorf and Farnsworthless have proved that they are inconsistent.

If Cashman still wants to prove that his infusion of youth is the direction for the future, then he should give Mark Melancon a shot. He is a player currently in Double-A who could be ready for the majors by July, similar to last year for Joba.  Melancon is a former University of Arizona closer, with a live arm and solid command.

If these two moves play out with success, then Joba's move will not be challenged by the brutal New York media. But if the Yankees bullpen blows games in the seventh and eighth inning, then this move will be heavily scrutinized, and could eventually lead to the firing of Brian Cashman.