New York Yankees are Messing with Joba and Hughes Again

Perry ArnoldSenior Analyst IFebruary 3, 2010

PHILADELPHIA - NOVEMBER 01:  Joba Chamberlain #62 of the New York Yankees reacts as he walks back to the dugout at the end of the bottom of the eighth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies in the bottom of the eighth inning of Game Four of the 2009 MLB World Series at Citizens Bank Park on November 1, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Today's New York Post reported in two separate articles that the New York Yankees are considering putting Joba Chamberlain back in the bull pen.

Joba himself was quoted from an interview done after the Thurman Munson Awards that he would be happy with whatever decision the team made.

He also said that he had enjoyed working with Mariano Rivera in the bull pen and seeing what a tremendous pitcher Mo is. Chamberlain said that if he had the opportunity to follow Mo as the closer when he is finally done, that that would be great.

However, just two days ago, Joba was saying that he was going to camp early and was ready to be the fifth starter and would give it everything he had to accomplish that.

Until now, all the talk from the Yankees has been that both Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes would prepare for Spring Training as starters and that they would compete for the open fifth slot in the rotation.

Now the speculation is that Joba will return to the pen and Hughes may be given the nod to start.

There was also speculation in the Post articles that Hughes could join Joba in the pen and Chad Gaudin, Sergio Mitre, and Alfredo Aceves would compete to start.

One thread in the storyline dismissed both Hughes and Joba working in the bull pen for 2010 simply because that would mean neither of them might be ready to start in 2011.

The Yankees could need more than one starter in 2011 because Javy Vazquez is in his walk year and has already talked about retirement, while Andy Pettitte, who will turn 38 in June, has talked about retirement for the past three seasons.

Last week on Yankees Hot Stove on The YES Network, Brian Cashman said that Joba and Hughes would both work as starters in Spring Training.

Which brings to mind the total confusion that has surrounded both of these pitchers.  Last year, Joba still had the rules and it was made clear that he would not exceed 160 innings or so.

But he worked as a starter from the beginning of the year. Then the team contemplated just giving him some time off before they decided to compromise and let him pitch three or four innings per start, depending on pitch count.

All of this was just mind boggling. And now, having been told he is a starter and should compete for the fifth-spot, the brass is letting it be known that they are considering putting him back in the pen.

And Hughes, after getting one of the starting slots in 2008, along with Ian Kennedy, is now on inning limits.

If Hughes could be penciled in as one of your five starters in 2008 when he was only 21 years old, why is he on inning limits now when he is two years older.

Admittedly, Hughes was hurt in 2008 and was horrible. He went on the DL with a strained oblique and a fractured rib. But neither of those injuries had anything to do with his arm.

In fact, going back to 2007 when Hughes was the second youngest player in the major leagues, he was exceptional. He pitched well against Toronto.

Then, in a game in Texas, he absolutely dominated with a no-hitter in the seventh inning when he pulled his left hamstring.

Again, none of these have been arm problems.

No one can seriously doubt that these two young, big studs have the physical ability to be top line starters in the big leagues for the next dozen years or so.

But, as important as physical ability is, the mental toughness that a starter brings to his role is also paramount.

A starting pitcher has to be confident, almost arrogant, when he takes the mound. He has to know he can dominate.

But, when the Yankees tell both Joba and Hughes that they are starters, then stick them in the pen, and then tell them again that they will be starters, then hint that one or both of them may be relegated immediately to the pen without being given a chance at a starter's role—that has to confuse and challenge the confidence of these two very good pitchers.