It's official. The Yankees are going to attempt to use Joba Chamberlain, the top starting pitcher prospect in all of baseball, as a set-up reliever for the first third of the season and then switch him to a starter for the final two-thirds of the season. This is being done to keep him around 140 innings pitched for 2008 under the belief that having a pitcher exceed his previous season' innings pitched total by 30 will lead to increased risk of injury.
Joel Sherman of the NY Post goes through this best-laid scheme:
- Chien-Ming Wang, Andy Pettitte, Mike Mussina, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy would stay healthy to form the rotation.
- Chamberlain stabilizes the set-up crew for the 1st two months until a viable option emerges.
- Joba then goes to the minors to be stretched out to start.
This is a bad idea. Too much can occur that will thwart Joba's career as a starter under the assumption he must never throw more than 30 innings per season more than he did in the prior one. This isn't a Chad Billingsley-in-LA situation because the Dodgers were already set in the 8th and 9th innings with Jonathan Broxton and Takashi Saito. The Yankees are depending on Joba to anchor the set-up corps.
Start him in the rotation and pair him with one of the team's minor league starters (i.e. Russ Ohlendorf or Alan Horne) for a couple of months. Limit Joba to 5 innings and his teammate to another two or three. This will tamp down Joba's innings without the risk of him spending a season in middle relief while breaking in some rookie starters as longmen in the bullpen.