While we spent the morning speculating about the Yanks’ plans for Joba, the team let slip shortly before their afternoon affair with the Blue Jays exactly what they have in mind for Chamberlain. It is apparently a plan with an innings cap higher than we all expect and with some flexibility as to use. It is one that will not limit his post-season appearances and will not send him back to the bullpen. It is also one we should learn to trust.
For the immediate future, Joba will now get a week off until his next start. Andy McCullough of The Star-Ledger reported that Chamberlain will next pitch on Wednesday against the A’s. He will not face the Red Sox in Fenway next weekend. The Yankees are not sure if Chad Gaudin or Sergio Mitre will take Joba’s turn. I believe both will have to pitch this weekend, unless the Bombers are preparing to throw Al Aceves instead of Mitre.
Beyond that, things are up in the air. Sometimes, Joba will go on five days’ rest; sometimes, he will get a few extra days off. The Yankees, though, are keeping their eyes on both the immediate goal of winning the World Series this year and the long-term goal of keeping Joba healthy. “This is part of the plan,” Joe Girardi said. This is what we have to do because this is not just about the next two months. This is about years and years to come.”
Once the regular season ends, Joba will be a part of any potential playoff rotation. “All hands on deck,” the Yankee skipper said. It is also worth noting that, per Peter Abraham, Joba’s limit is “more than people think. [The Yankees] based it on the entirety of his career, not just last year.”
The entirety of his career is less than helpful. Joba threw 100.1 innings last year and just over 110 innings in 2007. What that means for this year is anyone’s guess. The Verducci Rule would cap Joba at 130 innings, but the Yankees are prepared to go past that mark. According to the Daily News, the Yanks are eying 160 innings as Joba’s cap. That probably doesn’t include pitching deep into October, if need be.
With this news, many Yankee fans will be up in arms. “How can they risk Joba’s health?” they will scream. “Why can’t they just put him into the pen?” None of us really know what the Yankees and their pitching coaches, a group of baseball professionals, know. They know the health risks, and they know Joba Chamberlain’s make up. For now, I’m willing to trust that. Hopefully, that trust will not be misplaced.
Addendum: For a different look on pitching injuries, take a read through this recent New York Times Magazine article on teenagers facing overwhelming innings loads. These things definitely matter, and that article is a prime example of why the Yanks need to — and are — being careful with Joba.