How naïve we were to think yesterday that the eternal question of whether Joba Chamberlain should start or relieve might be answered this week. You’ll recall that, until yesterday, Joba hadn’t pitched well in camp at all, and had fallen behind both Alfredo Aceves and Phil Hughes for the fifth spot in the rotation. Had yesterday’s appearance against the Phillies not gone well, he’d have almost certainly been sent to the bullpen for the start of the regular season.
So, if only to draw this out as much as possible, Joba pitched well yesterday (he allowed two hits and one run over four, throwing 32 of 48 pitches for strikes), and stayed in the hunt for that fifth spot. Granted, he did so against the Phillies’ B team — before Joba entered the game, Charlie Manuel removed Jimmy Rollins, Jayson Werth, Shane Victorino, Ryan Howard, and Ben Francisco from the lineup — but that didn’t matter to Joe Girardi, who called the righty “outstanding.” It’s worth noting that, considering how much they’ve coddled Joba over the past few years, advice heading into this start included such lines as “put up or shut up” (from Dave Eiland) and, “We’re not expecting you to work on things anymore. We’re expecting you to compete and show us what you’ve got” (from Joe Girardi). Maybe treating him like a big boy works after all.
Chamberlain would need to pitch well in his next appearance — and would need for Aceves and Hughes to struggle — for Girardi to maybe proclaim him the winner, but considering all the effort they’ve put into preparing him as a starter, we’d have to think that, entering spring training, it was his job to lose. He hasn’t lost it quite yet.