No matter what happened on the offensive side of the ball today — and plenty did — the story was obviously going to be about Joba Chamberlain. There has been some internal concern about him, though nothing too serious since he’s still taking the ball every fifth day. This signals that he’s not hurt, because if there was any concern that he was, he wouldn’t be on the mound. So that’s a bit reassuring in itself. Some, though, are questioning his seemingly diminished velocity, citing his mid-90s heat even after he transitioned to the rotation.
We talked a bit about this in the podcast, coming up at 7, but there are a number of factors at work here. We know that in Spring Training most guys are consciously working on certain aspects of their games. Joba’s fastball velocity might not be of the utmost concern to him and his coaches at this point. He’s got to work up his strength to get to that level, and that could take some time. Plus, he’s also buddying around with A.J. Burnett, whose story this winter was how he learned from Roy Halladay that he doesn’t have to go max effort every time. Maybe Joba’s trying to learn that lesson early in his career.
Then again, maybe the velocity is a concern and we’re just sticking our fingers in our ears. That could be the case, no doubt, but at this point it’s probably best to watch how he’s throwing overall and ignore fastball velocity. If it becomes a problem during the season, that’s something to worry about then. For now, though, Joba’s not looking too bad at all.
After starting off the first inning with two straight outs, he gave up back to back homers to Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. Those are two premier hitters; it’s going to happen from time to time. After that, though, he seemed to settle down a bit. It’s also reassuring that those were the only two runs he surrendered — and two of the three hits. A bit more concerning are the three walks he issued. I’d like to think that this was the result of him working on hitting corners and using his secondary pitches a bit more often than he would in a game, but that could be the rose-colored view. In any case, he didn’t let it affect his results. We can safely place this game alongside Joba’s last two starts, in the “not overwhelming, but far from bad” category. Also remember, he’s not going to start a game until April 12. There’s still time.
The bullpen finished off the game without surrendering a run. Edwar Ramirez continued his spring dominance, striking out two in a perfect inning. The shoulder concerns from earlier this spring seem to be gone, and it looks like he’s just about locked up his bullpen spot. Brian Bruney got through a scoreless inning with a strikeout, lowering his spring ERA to 6.75. Jose Veras and Jon Albaladejo, who could be battling for that last roster spot, both tossed well, neither recording a strikeout, though Veras allowed two hits. And finally, Phil Coke struck out the only two batters he faced in direct relief of Chamberlain. He, too, has all but locked up his bullpen spot.
The Yanks managed four long flies in the game: Matsui, Ransom, Swisher, and Melky. The Yanks really took it to Scott Eyre, knocking him around for five runs in the eighth, including the Melky and Swisher home runs. Otherwise, Swisher took yet another walk and Melky went 2 for 3 with an RBI single on top of his two-run jack. Oh, and Derek Jeter went 2 for 4 in the leadoff spot. Girardi is a genius.
All in all, it was another encouraging spring game. The Yanks look like they’re in sync right now, and we can only hope this spills over into the season. Man, what I wouldn’t give to have it starting on time this year. April 6 seems like forever away.