Joba Chamberlain has been terrific as Mariano Rivera’s set-up man, hasn’t he? In 11.1 innings has allowed two runs on eight hits while striking out 14.
To some, this is further proof that he should remain in the bullpen. I know many of the Yankees feel that way. Most of them, actually. It’s also a popular theory on the radio and among many of my fellow sportswriters.
To me, it’s further proof that he needs to be in the rotation. It’s a waste to limit a young pitcher with that much talent to 70 innings a season. The sooner the Yankees develop Chamberlain into a 200-inning monster, the better off they will be.
The Red Sox won the World Series last season with a $1 million Japanese lefty setting up their closer. The Cardinals used assorted guys in 2006. The ’05 White Sox? They usually went to the immortal Neal Cotts.
You win championships with starting pitching. Postseason series are defined by starters, not by set-up men.
The Yankees caught a huge break. They took a chance on an oft-injured kid from Nebraska and he turned into solid gold. You don’t mess with this gift, you give him the ball and make him your ace.
Did you see The Natural? Of course you did. When Roy Hobbs started hitting all those homers, Pop Fisher didn’t say, “Hmm, this kid would make a heck of a pinch hitter.” No, they put him in the lineup.
Now I’m not saying Mike Mussina needs to run into a fence like Bump Bailey. But the Moose isn’t going to be there forever and they’ll need a starter next season, if not sooner.
That’s Joba. It’s worth whatever short-term pain that comes with the transition to make this kid a starter.