Joba goes 2 innings as conversion to starter begins

Updated: May 22, 2008, 12:01 AM ET
Reuters

NEW YORK -- The New York Yankees have begun the process of turning hard-throwing Joba Chamberlain into a starting pitcher, manager Joe Girardi said after Wednesday's 8-0 victory over the Baltimore Orioles.

Joba Chamberlain

Chamberlain

Chamberlain, a dominant set-up man for relief ace Mariano Rivera since coming up from the minors last season, pitched the eighth and ninth innings on Wednesday despite the big lead.

"The process has started -- converting Joba into a starter," Girardi told reporters. "Tonight was the first of extending him a little bit and we'll continue to do it."

The Yankees entered the season relying on two young starters -- Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy -- but both have struggled, Hughes now sidelined until July at the earliest with a fractured rib.

Girardi said shifting Chamberlain into the rotation this season had been the plan all along.

"This is the timetable we had set," said Girardi. "It's going to take him a while to get to 100 pitches. You saw the first of it tonight."

Chamberlain threw 35 pitches on Wednesday, including a number of changeups -- a pitch he will need to mix in with his bristling fastball and diving slider as a starter.

The burly right-hander said he was given the news Tuesday.

"Yesterday we sat down and talked," said the 22-year-old, who had never pitched in relief until he joined the Yankees midway through last season.

"We're going to be patient. I'm excited to see what happens."

Girardi said for now he would build Chamberlain's endurance with the Yankees and not send him down to the minors but declined to predict when the player would be ready to start.

Meanwhile, Kyle Farnsworth was singled out by Girardi as a candidate to take over as the eighth-inning pitcher who serves as a bridge to closer Rivera.

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