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The Risk For Joba Chamberlain

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:

  1. Chien-Ming Wang, Andy Pettitte, Mike Mussina, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy would stay healthy to form the rotation.
  2. Chamberlain stabilizes the set-up crew for the 1st two months until a viable option emerges.
  3. Joba then goes to the minors to be stretched out to start.
Am I the only one who sees this ending with Joba spending the season in the bullpen and then being stuck as a reliever next season as his 2008 one being spent in the bullpen only yields 90 innings pitched?  What if he is so dominant in the 8th inning that the Yankees are loathe to remove him from the role?  How do the Yankees remove him form the major league roster so he can stretch out and spend 12-15 of those 140 innings as a AAA starter?  What if none of the Yankees relievers ex-Joba & Mo' step-up?  And if that is the case, then how do the Yankees justify removing Joba from his 8th inning role?

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.