Yankees should leave Chamberlain in the rotation

Updated: May 3, 2009

Nick Laham/Getty Images

Joba Chamberlain has dropped his ERA nearly two runs over his past two starts.

LEAVE JOBA IN ROTATION

There's been some talk about Joba Chamberlain returning to his role as a reliever because of the Yankees' troubles with their bullpen. I don't think the Yankees are ready to do that yet. I watched Joba pitch live Wednesday night, and to me, the key for him was his velocity.

He was at 95 mph, not 92 mph. We saw 95 on the very first pitch of the game and 94 on the last pitch he threw. He needed to turn it up a notch and, to his credit, he did. He had command of both sides of the plate with his fastball, a good sharp breaking ball and the occasional changeup. He was everything that the Yankees thought he can be and he wants to be. And he wants to be in the rotation full-time. That's what he's been working toward all along. I can understand that desire. I was a starter throughout the minors, but when I first arrived in the big leagues I came out of the bullpen. I got into the rotation in mid-May and was able to stick there. Every indication I get from Joba is that he's thinking the same thing.

If needed, I think he could do both jobs. When you can pitch, ultimately, it doesn't matter where. But I think the Yankees need to leave him right where he's at. They've built him up to be an ace someday and he certainly still could be. I laugh at the things the Yankees do all the time. Going into Wednesday night's game he had six career major league wins, but he had five full pages in the Yankees' media guide. When I had six wins, I had six sentences written about me.

Before they even consider using Chamberlain out of the bullpen again, I think they need to give him four or five more starts. If he consistently struggles, maybe you start to think about it, but as long as he holds his own he needs to stay where he is. And I haven't seen any indication that he's going to struggle. He had seven good innings in his last start (a win against Detroit) and if it wasn't for a long top of the eighth inning, I think he would have come back out. So his arm strength is built up and I think he's earned his spot. To me, that's what could make the Yankees special this year.

Their Nos. 4 and 5 guys could be the best in the league. You almost have to have six starters these days in baseball because injuries will happen. That's exactly why the Chicago Cubs have stretched out Jeff Samardzija. You need to be able to plug guys in without having a drastic drop in ability. Otherwise, you are essentially handing over those games.

The answer to the Yankees' bullpen problems may be closer than they think. I think Brian Bruney, provided he can get healthy, and Phil Coke are two guys who can get it done. One guy I don't know what's going on with is Damaso Marte. Whatever the issue is, he's not the same pitcher that he was in Pittsburgh. I don't see command or consistent velocity from him. Maybe Sunday's trip to the disabled list explains something. Before the season is over, the Yankees need to lean on Bruney and Coke a bit and hope they can even come close to doing what Jeff Nelson and Mike Stanton did in the past for New York. In the Yankees' not-too-distant glory days, those two guys took care of the seventh and eighth innings, then Mariano Rivera pitched the ninth. Rivera has been a constant force. It is still a privilege to watch him pitch. I don't see much of a change from him, really. I think he's every bit as good as he's always been. I know manager Joe Girardi has the same confidence in him that Joe Torre did.

Honestly, I think the Yankees are in a holding pattern. Their schedule has been tough early, but it's easing up soon. If they are going to make a move, the month of May is the time. At the end of the month, if they are not at the top of the division or at least within a game or two, then they may not be all year long.

Past Baseball Tonight Clubhouses: April 30 | April 29 | April 28 | April 27 | April 26

WEB GEMS SCOREBOARD

Touch 'Em AllThis season, "Baseball Tonight" will be tracking Web Gems. We'll publish a leaderboard on the Baseball Tonight Clubhouse page each Monday. In addition to listing the leaders in appearances (both players and teams) on "Baseball Tonight," we'll offer up the leaders in Web Gem Points.

Web Gem Points will be calculated by awarding five points for the night's top defensive play, four points for second, three for third, two for fourth and one for fifth. Scoring will be based on the Web Gems from the last "Baseball Tonight" show to air on a given night.

Web Gem Points leaderboard
Brandon Inge 22
David Wright 15
Ryan Sweeney 12
Rick Ankiel 10

Web Gem appearances leaderboard (players)
Brandon Inge Detroit Third base 7
David Wright New York Mets Third base 6
Six players tied 3

Web Gem appearances leaderboard (teams)
Tampa Bay 9
Boston 8
Kansas City 8
Houston 7
Philadelphia 7
Detroit 7
New York Mets 7
- Rockies only team without a Web Gem

ON DECK: MONDAY'S BEST MATCHUPS

Red Sox at Yankees

Phil Hughes was flawless in his first start of the year, when he went six scoreless innings against Detroit. Hughes struck out six and scattered two hits. Jon Lester is coming off a pair of no-decisions, including one against the Yankees.

Phillies at Cardinals

Kyle Lohse is still unbeaten, coming off a six-shutout-inning performance against the Braves. Joe Blanton has given up exactly eight hits in each of his past three starts.

White Sox at Royals

The Zack Greinke unbeaten tour rolls on, with the White Sox arriving for a visit. Greinke, 5-0 with a 0.50 ERA this season, has struck out 44 on the year against only eight walks.

For the rest of Monday's schedule, click here.

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BBTN ON THE AIR: MONDAY

TIME WHO'S ON?
10 p.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Karl Ravech
Analysts: John Kruk, Peter Gammons, Chris Singleton
12 a.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Karl Ravech
Analysts: John Kruk, Peter Gammons, Chris Singleton

TOUCH 'EM ALL

Insider Who went deep? Keep track of all the home runs hit each day on "Baseball Tonight" and on the Baseball Tonight Clubhouse page.

For more, check out the Home Run Tracker page.

Home Run Tracker
NAME HR OPPPITCHER SITUATION
V.Wells
Tor
4BalGuthrieBot 1: 1-2, 2 Outs. 1 on.
L. Scott
Bal
4TorRichmondTop 2: 1-1, 1 Outs. 1 on.
B. Inge
Det
8CleLeeBot 2: 3-2, 0 Outs. None on.
J. Bruce
Cin
6PitKarstensTop 2: 2-1, 0 Outs. None on.
P. Fielder
Mil
4AriPetitBot 2: 1-2, 0 Outs. None on.

The complete list of Sunday's homers

BBTN MINUTE: LOOKING AT RED SOX-YANKEES

SIMON SAYS

Simon Says ESPN researcher Mark Simon digs deep, looking for the night's best baseball numbers.

Tonight, he looks at Justin Verlander, who seems to have found the right combination in his last two starts. Sunday he hit 99 mph eight times en route to beating the Indians:

Justin Verlander
First 4 starts Last 2 starts
W-L 0-2 2-0
ERA 9.00 0.64
OBP against .370 .236
1st-pitch strike pct. 60.4 70.9

WEB GEMS

SUNDAY'S BEST AND WORST

BEST
Carl CrawfordCarl Crawford just ran around the bases all day against the Red Sox in a 5-3 win. Crawford stole six bases -- yes, six -- tying him for the modern-day, single-game major league record. The last player to steal six bases in a game was Eric Young, for the Rockies in 1996.
Johnny CuetoJohnny Cueto silenced the Pirates by tossing eight shutout innings in the Reds' 5-0 win. Cueto struck out nine and walked one while scattering four hits for his second win of the year. Cueto lowered his ERA to 1.65 for the year.
WORST
Grady SizemoreGrady Sizemore went 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts in a 3-1 road loss against the Detroit Tigers. He continues his search for comfort at the plate. Sizemore, a career .278 hitter, is hitting just .240 on the year and has struck out 27 times in 104 at-bats.
Josh Beckett• Hard to put a guy who had a no-hitter entering the seventh in the "worst" column, but that's where the Twins' Scott Baker lands after Sunday's performance. He blew both the no-hitter and the game against the Royals by giving up five hits and five runs in that seventh inning, losing 7-5.

NUMBERS TO KNOW

Minnesota Twins lefty Francisco Liriano missed the 2007 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery. When he returned during the 2008 season, he was throwing the slider far less frequently than he did preinjury. Batters noticed, because they waited for his fastball and were able to tee off on it.

He has continued to throw fewer sliders this season. Batters are hitting .333 and slugging .524 against his fastball while swinging and missing less than 10 percent of the time. While they aren't hitting the slider well this season, they aren't swinging-and-missing as much as they did preinjury, when batters missed the pitch almost half the time. Liriano (0-4, 6.04 ERA) takes the mound Monday night against the Detroit Tigers, who swing and miss against sliders 32.9 percent of the time, slightly higher than the league average.

Liriano's fastball (2006-2009)
Pitch pct. BA Miss pct.
2006 48.1 .196 15.8
2008 54.5 .318 11.3
2009 63.3 .333 9.7
Liriano's slider (2006-2009)
Pitch pct. BA Miss pct.
2006 33.6 .148 47.9
2008 25.9 .125 45.2
2009 23.0 .154 34.0

-- ESPN Stats & Information

FANTASY: PREVIEW OF MONDAY'S GAMES

AJ Mass examines the 15 games on Monday's slate.

Fantasy Mass ranks the pitchers scheduled to take the mound and supplies loads of other information that could help shape your roster for Monday. Daily Notes