Poor starting pitching from two highly touted youngsters has contributed to the New York Yankees’ disappointing record. They hope moving Joba Chamberlain, another heralded young hurler, from the bullpen to the rotation will get them headed in the right direction.
Chamberlain makes his much-anticipated first major league start Tuesday night when the Yankees open a three-game series against the visiting Toronto Blue Jays.
Selected 41st overall in the 2006 amateur draft, Chamberlain (1-2, 2.28 ERA) began his major league career late last season as a dominant force in the bullpen. He posted a 0.38 ERA in 19 appearances, and has been almost as good this year, allowing runs in only four of 20 games while serving in a set-up role for closer Mariano Rivera.
Although he has yet to start in the majors, the 22-year-old right-hander was a starter at the University of Nebraska and made 15 starts in the minors before he joined the Yankees (28-29).
“It’s what I’ve done my whole life,” said Chamberlain, who hasn’t started since July 25, 2007, for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, when he pitched five scoreless innings against Louisville, walking one and striking out 10 in his International League debut.
Chamberlain will be permitted to throw 65-70 pitches Tuesday. In his final relief appearance on Wednesday, he struck out three in 1 1/3 innings at Baltimore, earning a hold in the Yankees’ 4-2 victory.
“I have a tendency to get long in counts, so I’ve got to be more efficient that way,” Chamberlain said. “You’re still going to see the same person. I’m going to use my emotions to my advantage. Sometimes I can let them get the most of me and try to do too much.”
Moving Chamberlain into the rotation has been a hot topic of debate for the Yankees. Team co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner was vocal earlier this year about wanting him to start.
“Hopefully he does well,” Steinbrenner said. “Again, I would have preferred to start the year with him as a starter, but this is the way they have come up with. Hopefully it works and he has no problem with the transition.”
Hughes went 0-4 with a 9.00 ERA in six starts before he was placed on the 15-day disabled list on May 1 with a strained right oblique. Kennedy, meanwhile, was 0-3 with a 7.41 ERA before a strained muscle near his right ribcage landed him on the DL on Wednesday.
Lack of rotation depth has hurt New York, which finds itself one game under .500 and just one-half game ahead of last-place Baltimore in the AL East.
The Yankees were unable to build on last month’s season-high five-game winning streak, and completed a 3-4 road trip with a 6-5 loss to Minnesota on Monday.
“I’m not happy with it,” manager Joe Girardi said. “We should’ve had a much better record on this road trip. We have to start playing better, and that’s the bottom line.”
Derek Jeter had three hits in the loss, leaving the New York captain two shy of tying Mickey Mantle (2,415) for third on the team’s career list.
Chamberlain won’t draw an easy assignment as the Blue Jays (31-28) send ace Roy Halladay (6-5, 2.93) to the mound.
Halladay was outstanding for the second consecutive start Wednesday in a 2-1 win at Oakland, throwing eight innings while allowing one run and eight hits with nine strikeouts and one walk - his first free pass since May 9.
The right-hander is 10-5 with a 3.03 ERA in 27 games - 25 starts - against New York.
Toronto has won 14 of its last 20 games, including a 3-3 mark on a road trip that concludes Thursday.