What Does Fate Hold for Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes in 2010?
Major League Baseball's offseason is famous for its high-priced free agent signings and blockbuster trades.
General managers are on the phone 24/7 trying to put together the perfect roster for the upcoming season.
However, the New York Yankees have one glaring issue that needs a solution.
Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain both burst onto the scene in 2007.
Hughes came in as the second youngest player in the American League in late April and showed promise in a start against the Rangers before getting injured, sidelining him until August. In 2008, Hughes pitched very poorly. In only eight starts, he had no wins to show and a frightening 6.62 ERA.
Joba came onto the Yankees as a reliever, although he had been a starter his entire life. He lit up the radar gun and soon had Yankee fans everywhere excited. Joba's strict innings limit, known as the "Joba Rules," stemmed from surgery he had coming into the league and has severely limited his development as a starter.
Coming into the 2009 season, the Yankees had high hopes for their two young, promising pitchers. However, things went differently than planned.
Hughes began the season in AAA but was called up shortly after Chien-Ming Wang's injury. Hughes pitched well but was eventually sent to the bullpen as the setup man after Wang returned in early June.
Hughes had great success in the pen, finishing the year with eight wins and a 3.03 ERA. This success did not continue into the postseason, where Hughes struggled mightily setting up Mariano Rivera.
Joba was placed in the starting rotation to start the season for the first time in his career. Although he still had an innings limit, the Yankees hoped to spread out his innings so he could last longer into the season.
Chamberlain struggled most of the season, except for a bright spot after the All-Star Break where he seemed unhittable. His velocity was nowhere near what fans saw as a reliever, and his breaking pitches were not nearly as sharp and devastating. Joba was eventually moved to the bullpen late in the year and finished the season 9-6 with a 4.75 ERA.
Now that 2009 is over and in the books, let's look ahead to what 2010 holds for Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain.
With CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Andy Pettitte the only pitchers penciled into the 2010 rotation, the uncertainty of Chien-Ming Wang's health, and a poor free agent starting pitchers pool, the Yankees will need Hughes and/or Joba to fill one or both of the remaining two spots.
But how effective can they be? We have seen both Hughes and Joba struggle in the rotation. Will Hughes be back in the pen, or will we see Joba lighting up the radar gun as the bridge to Rivera?
In my opinion, 2010 is the year for Hughes and Joba to make their marks in the American League as starting pitchers. Throw them in the rotation. Joba should be able to go 200 innings this year, and Hughes shouldn't have a problem stretching back into a starting pitcher over the offseason and into Spring Training.
If the plan goes awry, then decide the better of the two evils and throw one of them back into the pen. The Yankees cannot wait around forever to decide if these two fine young pitchers can have success in the rotation. It has to be decided this year.
We all know the potential Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain have. They have both been at the center of potential trades and are coveted by every team. With World Series rings on their fingers, they should have the confidence to now go out and start effectively. A great offense backing them up shouldn't hurt either.
Go out and show people why you were drafted so highly, why you were so feared in the minors, and why you deserve to be a part of the New York Yankees' starting rotation.
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