Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Joba gets back on track

Perhaps it's just that I hadn't watched YES programming since last September, but Bob Lorenz and David Cone seemed to be especially sycophantic during Tuesday's Yankees-Reds spring training telecast.

The object of their affection was Joba Chamberlain, of course, who actually managed to pitch like he didn't have a handicap tag hanging from his rearview mirror. Hoss allowed one run over three innings, striking out three without walking a batter. His fastball -- clocked at around 91 mph in previous spring outings -- reached a high of 96. Lorenz and Cone reacted to the development as if they'd witnessed baseball nirvana.

Don't get me wrong, it was great to see Chamberlain handle himself out there, especially after his mess of an outing five days earlier. But consider the following: The 96-mph fastball I saw was well up and out of the strike zone, making it misleading. He also gave up a crisp single to Eric Dickerson's nephew leading off the first (he was erased by Molina on a caught stealing) and a run in the third, so this clearly wasn't vintage Joba ... merely an improvement.

It will be interesting to see what kind of leash Joba has in the early going. Phil Hughes has been excellent this spring (five scoreless innings, six K's), and if Chamberlain struggles out of the gate, could Hughes supplant him in the rotation before May 1? What would happen next? A trip to the minors? The ... gulp ... bullpen?

I'm getting ahead myself. Joba looked a lot more like Joba on Tuesday. And that's a start.

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