The New York Post's Joel Sherman , among others, is reporting that Joe Girardi has officially named Phil Hughes as the Yankees' fifth starter. This has been heavily debated over the course of spring training, but I'm still not sure what the Yankees plan was here.
They have seemingly been building Joba Chamberlain up so that he could have the opportunity to start a full season and pitch 200 innings. Now, when he finally are at a point where Chamberlain is without innings limits, they decide to go another direction and stick him in the bullpen.
Not only that, but who are they replacing him with? Phil Hughes, a pitcher who will have an innings limit this season. The number has not been disclosed, but it will probably be somewhere in the 160-170 innings area.
The Yankees proved last year that they don't have an effective way to limit innings while getting a positive contribution from a young pitcher. Their plan with Chamberlain didn't seem to work and was changed multiple times last season. Now, they will have to find something that works for the team and Phil Hughes.
Chamberlain will likely start the season in the bullpen. There has been no indication of what this means for his long-term future, but I hope that they are not planning on making this a permanent move. With his stuff and repertoire, Chamberlain deserves more of an opportunity to be a starter.
If a Yankees pitcher goes down with an injury, the Yankees should not hesitate to replace him in the rotation with Chamberlain. If the Yankees keep him in the bullpen all season, and he pitches just 60-70 innings, all of the innings building that they have been doing with him over the past two seasons will have been a waste.
I'm sure the Yankees are doing what they think is best for the team in 2010, but I'm not sure it is the best long-term move for Chamberlain or for the team. It seems like this was just a gross miscalculation by the Yankees of both pitcher's abilities and one where their plan seemed to go incredibly awry.
The fact is, though, that Hughes will be a capable starter for the Yankees this season. The looming questions will be about Hughes's innings limits and Chamberlain's long-term future. These are questions that we'll begin to find out the answers to over the course of the 2010 season.
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