Commentary

Joba giveth after Yankees taketh away

Chamberlain contributing again after being stripped of role as eighth-inning reliever

Updated: August 7, 2010, 1:11 AM ET
By Ian Begley | Special to ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- Maybe losing the eighth-inning job woke up Joba Chamberlain.

Chamberlain hasn't allowed a run in five appearances since being replaced in his role as the exclusive set-up man out of the New York Yankees' bullpen.

He extended his scoreless streak to 5 1/3 innings on Friday night by retiring the two hitters he faced in the sixth inning -- one of the few bright spots for the Yankees in an otherwise sloppy 6-3 loss to the Boston Red Sox.

Chamberlain is coming off of an awful July in which he gave up 16 hits and nine runs in 11 outings, posting a 6.39 ERA for the month. He lost his hold on the eighth-inning job on July 26 in Cleveland, when Joe Girardi chose to call on David Robertson in the eighth in a game the Yankees led by one run.

Chamberlain said after Friday night's game that he took the demotion in Cleveland as a "challenge."

"You always take it as a challenge when another guy is throwing well," Chamberlain said. "You've got to continue to go out there to pitch to gain that confidence back and to have that trust in yourself and to have your teammates and coaches trusting you."

Chamberlain entered the game with one out in the sixth on Friday night after starter Javier Vazquez allowed a two-run homer to Ryan Kalish and walked Jed Lowrie.

Chamberlain got Jacoby Ellsbury to ground out and forced Marco Scutaro to pop out to second.

"It's a big situation, to keep us in the game and give us a chance to win," Chamberlain said.

Entering the game with one out in the sixth and the Yankees down three is a far cry from what Chamberlain did in 2007 and most of 2008, when he consistently lit up radar guns and stifled opposing hitters before handing the ball to Mariano Rivera.

But don't hold your breath waiting to see Chamberlain coming out of the bullpen, throwing 100 mph, anytime soon. Any hope of that was probably lost when the Yankees converted him into a starter in 2009.

Since then, he's come up short in a spring training competition for the fifth starter spot and has been demoted from his role as the bridge to Rivera.

But if he can build on the success of his past five outings, Chamberlain -- who is 1-4 with a 5.29 ERA -- can be a valuable piece in the Yankees bullpen, whether Girardi calls on him in the sixth, seventh or eighth.

The 24-year-old right-hander attributes his recent turnaround to mechanical issues he's worked on with pitching coach Dave Eiland, such as keeping his body centered over the rubber and finishing his pitches with proper form.

The results have shown as he's struck out five, allowed only one hit and lowered his ERA by a half-run in his past five outings. Of course, Girardi hasn't asked Chamberlain to protect an eighth-inning lead in any of those outings.

"Joba's been through a lot in his career, so I don't think it's the inning, I think it's the adjustments that he's made," Girardi said before Friday's game.

Maybe Girardi's right. But for right now, it seems like getting Chamberlain out of the eighth has made all the difference.

Ian Begley is a regular contributor to the ESPNNewYork.com.

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