Kallas Remarks By Steve Kallas
What’s all the commotion about the difficulty of converting Joba Chamberlain from a reliever to a starter? What’s all of this “this is a long process” stuff? What’s all of this “it’s going to be hard to do this in a game situation” stuff? Why does this seem to be so tough to do?
The Yankees are now talking about pitching Joba in relief for a few innings and then, if he can’t meet the designated pitch count for that day, have him finish by throwing in the bullpen. How stupid is that? You can’t give Joba a game-like situation in the bullpen any more than you can re-create a game situation in spring training or in a “simulated” game. You can try, but anyone with any baseball knowledge knows that this wouldn’t be anything like a real game.
So, what can the Yankees do? Well, this isn’t as difficult as it looks on its face. Why not start a reliever, pitch him two innings and then let Joba come in to start the third inning? That way, when they are trying to build him up to 55, 65, 75 or even 85 pitches, he can go three, four, five or even six innings, depending, of course, on how many pitches he throws, how he feels and how he does in an actual game. To have him “finish” an appearance in the bullpen after being taken out of a game would be like having a position player you’d like to get some at-bats for take batting practice after the game. It just isn’t the same.
The bigger issue has always been, do the Yankees really need to do this? Even though Joe Girardi has said the switch to starting for Joba has nothing to do with the poor pitching (to date) of Hughes and Kennedy, the reality is that, if these guys were pitching well, there would be no reason to move Joba. Since we already know he’s a lights-out setup guy, it would have been best for the Yankees to keep him in the bullpen. Only if he projects to be a number one starter or (maybe) a top number two starter should it even be considered that he switch to starting rather than relieving. Presumably, he does project as an ace in the view of the Yankeee experts.
So, if the Yankees now want to make Joba a starter and the organization decides to start a reliever for two innings to give Joba an open-ended opportunity, who’s the reliever? It says here that, like him or not, the best reliever on the Yankee roster right now to do the job is Ross Ohlendorf. He’s averaging about two innings an appearance (15 games, 27 innings as of 5/25) and that’s all you would need to get Joba in the game. It would be nice if the Yankees had a lefty reliever who could start once or twice (to set up a lefty-righty switch to Joba in the third inning), but they have no lefty relievers in their bullpen.
This whole “process” is not as big a gamble as people think for the Yankees. If it doesn’t work, Joba can always go back to the bullpen. The bigger long-term question is, frankly, whether Joba is the next Mariano. Most Yankee fans would pick Mariano Rivera as the Yankee MVP since 1996. But a closer is of no value if his team doesn’t have the lead very late in the game. If the Yankees can develop good starting pitching in the next couple of seasons, it might be best for the team to have Joba in the bullpen. If he’s going to be the ace of the staff for the next decade, that’s a different story. It will be good for the Yankees to find this out sooner rather than later.
© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas. All rights reserved.