Apparently last season’s strict set of pitching rules for phenom pitcher Joba Chamberlain, also known as the “Joba Rules”, have a new edition out for the 2008 season.
According to ESPN.com, the New York Post reports that the New York Yankees will begin the 2008 season with Chamberlain coming out of the bullpen as Mariano Rivera‘s set-up man as opposed to joining the rotation.
The current plan (which I’m sure has its wiggle room if need be) is to have the 22-year old start the season in the bullpen and limit his innings. Then in around June he will head down to the minors to get some work in as a starter only to rejoin the club as part of the Yankee rotation. Essentially the “Joba Rules” are to limit his arm to 140 innings in the 2008 campaign.
I can’t say that this is a huge surprise as I know how protective the Yankees are about Chamberlain and his arm. Many have wondered if he has the endurance and durability to be a starter at the Major League level. This new set of rules, as disappointing as it may be to many Yankees fans, is the smartest move long term for the man who invoked “Joba Fever” on baseball last season.
Personally I think Chamberlain is an outstanding talent and whatever the Yankees have to do to protect him is the best thing to do. Regarding Chamberlain’s abilities, here is a quick scouting report I wrote on him for my “2008 Top 5 Prospects: New York Yankees” column a few weeks ago.
Chamberlain has already proven to be a big time Major League pitcher coming out of the bullpen for the Yankees last season and causing Joba-fever everywhere. He has a mid to upper-90’s fastball, a sharp moving plus slider, and an improved changeup. The righty has plus stuff and plus command with a big frame that he uses for his power pitches. Has also learned to incorporate his secondary pitches more rather than relying strictly on fastballs. Looks to be moved to the rotation in 2008.
Now as far as Chamberlain’s long term success, we will have to look at who he is as a pitcher. There’s no doubt that he has the skill set as well as the personality to be a shutdown set-up man and closer, but to truly realize his abilities you need to have him in the rotation. I discussed Chamberlain’s skill set the other day in my “Clay vs. Joba” column where I compared the two pitchers and who is better. While Chamberlain’s fastball and slider are devastating and perfect for an end of the game guy, he does need to solidify at least one more pitch to become an effective starter. Two such pitches he needs to sharpen are his change and his curveball. Here’s an excerpt from my column discussing these two pitches:
• Chamberlain has been working on improving his change-up and it is getting better with time. As of now it is sitting in the low-80’s and is lacking enough movement to make it a stand out pitch. It is effective enough of a pitch to incorporate into his game plan but it will take more work to be a solid Major League pitch.
• Chamberlain is also at a bit of a disadvantage with this pitch too as he doesn’t use his curve as much as Buchholz for a couple of reasons. For one it’s not nearly as good as his fastball or slider which he predominantly uses coming out of the bullpen. Secondly it just isn’t that effective of a pitch for him yet as he doesn’t have reliable control over it. It is more of a slow looping curve that generally sits between 79-82 mph. This approach is ok during his time in the bullpen when a dominating fastball and hard slider will work great, but he may want to fine tune it a little more before joining the Yankees rotation.
I’m sure this will be one of the top priorities of the Yankees during his seasoning process as adding two more plus type pitches is exactly what Chamberlain needs.
Once again I want to reiterate that this is the best move the Yankees can do for this youngster’s future. With so many young, talented pitchers like Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy ready to insert into the rotation, there shouldn’t be any rush with Joba.
I for one can’t wait to see how this new set of “Joba Rules” plays out and just how good he can be as a starting pitcher in Major League Baseball.
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