Joba Chamberlain has a torn ligament in his throwing elbow, Yankee manager Joe Girardi just announced in his pre-game press conference. While the Yankee pitcher hasn’t shown any symptoms of a serious injury or pain, the MRI, Girardi said, showed a tear that will “likely” require Tommy John surgery. It is unclear how much time he will miss, but it seems as though we’ve seen the last of Joba for 2011.
Joba, according to Peter Botte, is “sending [his] MRI results to [Dr. James] Andrews but not visiting him yet.” The right-handed who, said he “shed a few tears,” repeatedly said that he had no pain. “I’m not giving up,” he said.
With $17.75 million worth of relievers already on the disabled list, this news is a huge blow to the Yankees’ bullpen depth. They have posted the best bullpen in the American League so far this year, but the club will be stretched to the max as Brian Cashman works to fill some holes. Joba, 2-0 with a 2.83 ERA, had seemingly embraced his relief role this year. He had struck out 24 while walking just seven and was powering fastballs past hitters with a confidence not seen since mid-2009.
With Rafael Soriano out for a while, Joba had emerged as the club’s primary set-up role. That job will now be handed to David Robertson, and in the short term, Luis Ayala and Boone Logan will be expected to pick up the slack. The club still has Mariano and a potential ace in the hole.
Along with the Joba news, the Yanks announced that Phil Hughes was consistently hitting 92 on the radar gun and will begin his arduous Spring Training-like rehab process. He’ll start next week for the Gulf Coast League Yankees and will likely need most of the 30-day rehab clock to get his arm strength and stamina back up. While the Yankees’ starting rotation is skating on thin ice these days, the Yankees may decide to keep Hughes in the bullpen for depth. I believe that decision will depend upon whether Yanks’ GM Brian Cashman can more easily procure a starting pitcher or a reliever on the trade market.
For the Yankees and their fans, this news will inevitably be viewed through the lens of Joba’s ever-changing roles. He was a starter, a reliever, a starter, a reliever and a starter again before moving into a relief spot seemingly permanently. He suffered a mysterious shoulder injury in 2008 and was an injury risk when he was drafted in 2006. The Yanks say they kept him as a reliever to better manage the load on his shoulder, but you know what they say about the best-laid plans.
Personally, I’m a big fan of Joba’s, and I’m more saddened by this news than I thought. While this development represents a blow to the Yanks’ bullpen, the Yanks can weather another bullpen injury far better than they can ineffective pitching from A.J. Burnett, Freddy Garcia or Ivan Nova. I will still trot out the 62 t-shirt this year and know that Brian Cashman has a tough task ahead of him.