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Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes Not What New York Yankees Had Hoped For

Both Could Be in Their Final Weeks With the Yankees as Season Winds Down

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | Once upon a time, Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain were expected to anchor the New York Yankees' pitching rotation for a decade or so.

Now, as the Yankees try desperately to get back into the playoff chase, each is playing out the string of what will likely be his final season in Yankees pinstripes.

Neither pitcher is doing anything significant to help the cause. Hughes, in a starting role, is a miserable 4-13 with an unsightly 4.91 ERA. He is still starting mostly because the Yankees have no one else to run out there, with David Phelps, Vidal Nuno and Michael Pineda all sidelined with injuries. Chamberlain has been relegated mostly to mop-up duty as the 2013 season has unfolded. He has pitched 37 times this season, 23 of those with the Yankees behind, and has pitched just 11 innings since the All-Star break. Chamberlain has watched as pitchers like David Robertson, Shawn Kelley, Adam Warren and even Preston Claiborne bounced back and forth between AAA and New York all season, have generally been given the important assignments.

It was not supposed to turn out this way for either Hughes or Chamberlain.

Hughes, drafted in the first round in 2002 (23rd overall), was called "The Franchise" throughout his days in the minor leagues. The inference was obvious -- he was expected to be the No. 1 starter when he finally came to the big leagues, a perennial All-Star.

Hughes first came to the Yankees in 2007 and has had some success. He was dominant as a short reliever in 2009, and then went 18-8 in 2010. He went 16-13 a year ago. Hughes, though, has never been what the Yankees thought he would be. He has never pitched to an ERA lower than 4.19 as a starter, and seems forever stuck as a guy whose stuff is good enough to stay in the big leagues as a backend of the rotation starter, but not good enough to be a front-line guy.

The fall has been worse for Chamberlain. He burst on the scene as a precocious, fire-balling reliever late in the 2007 season, firing 98-mph fastballs and unhittable sliders while fist-pumping his way into the hearts of Yankees fans. Nothing, though, has seemed to go right for Chamberlain since the midges got to him in Cleveland in the 2007 ALDS.

The Yankees bounced him back and forth between starting and relieving. They didn't need a new Mariano Rivera -- they still had the old one. They needed a Justin Verlander and thought Chamberlain could be one. He couldn't, winning nine games in 2009, his only full-time season as a starter. Chamberlain blew out his elbow in 2011 and required Tommy John surgery. Neither his fastball nor her personality has seemed the same since.

As the 2013 season winds down, with CC Sabathia having his worst season, Andy Pettitte likely at the end of his career, Hiroki Kuroda running out of gas, and Rivera retiring, it's obvious that the Yankees need new anchors on their pitching staff. Hughes and Chamberlain were supposed to be those guys.

Life, however, does not always work out the way it is planned. Hughes, Chamberlain and the Yankees will probably all be better off by going their separate ways at the end of this current season. Both sides could use fresh starts.

Ed Valentine is editor of Big Blue View, covering the New York Giants. He has written about the Yankees for Pinstripe Alley, SB Nation New York, Bugs & Cranks and Hot Stove New York.

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