The Phillies rolled into Tampa this afternoon with about half of their starting lineup and a contingent of Major Leaguers in tow. While Chase Utley is still on the mend from surgery and Jimmy Rollins is repping the US at the WBC, Raul Ibañez, Ryan Howard, Matt Stairs, Jayson Werth and Geoff Jenkins had the pleasure of squaring off against Joba Chamberlain and the Yanks.
In a way, it would be a test for Joba. He had two bad outings, followed by a good one and needed to show progress as the Grapefruit League marches toward Opening Day. Well, he responded quite nicely, thank you very much. In three innings, Joba allowed a pair of hits and a walk — to the first batter of the game no less — while striking out three.
We like to debate Joba around here. While most RAB readers and commenters seem to recognize the value of Joba in the rotation, a bunch of B-Jobbers, our nickname for those folks who believe Joba should pitch the 8th inning, infiltrate the airwaves on the FAN, ESPN and MLB Network. As Mark Feinsand related after the game, though, the Yankee coaches all agree that Joba is a starter. Joe Girardi, Dave Eiland and Brian Cashman don’t really care what those talking heads have to say; Joba is a member of the starting rotation through and through.
“I understand that side of the argument,” Eiland said of the B-Jobbers to Feinsand. “There’s no denying what he did out of the pen. Could we put him back there right now and have him do the same thing? Sure. But power guys don’t come around that often with the four pitches that he has. When they do, they’re in a rotation somewhere – usually in the top three spots.”
Meanwhile, once Joba was removed this afternoon, the bullpen and the Yanks’ offense took over. Brian Bruney managed to put three runners on in one inning but escaped unharmed. Kei Igawa, Jonathan Albaladejo and David Robertson combined for five scoreless innings, striking out six and allowing four baserunners, as the bats carried the Yanks.
When the dust settled, the Yanks walked away 12-0 winners over the defending World Champions, and their rather meaningless Grapefruit League record now stands at 9-8. Nick Swisher led the attack with three hits and three RBIs in four at-bats. Brett Gardner scored twice and drove in a run with an RBI triple. Xavier Nady, Cody Ransom and Shelly Duncan all picked up a pair of hits. If only it all counted.
The Kei Watch
Kei Igawa continues to tantalize the Yankees during Spring Training. Igawa threw three scoreless innings today. He gave up two hits and a walk and struck out three. He’s doing a better job of trusting his stuff and is getting players to hit into outs instead of home runs. On the spring, he has now thrown 12 innings, surrendering six hits, two walks and zero runs. He has 11 strike outs to go along with that 0.00 ERA. What the Yankees will do with Kei and the $12 million they owe him is anyone’s guess, but after two forgettable seasons, Igawa is making a statement, albeit in March.