It’s pretty rare to see professional athletes get excited to meet someone, but Joba Chamberlain was positively giddy when he noticed John Smoltz (now with MLB Network) in the Yankees clubhouse earlier today. Chamberlain (like many of us) grew up seeing a lot of the Braves on cable and tried to act natural as Smoltz talked to several other players. “I tried not to be star-struck,” Chamberlain said. “I don’t get starstruck very much.”
Finally, Chamberlain went up and talked to Smoltz, and the two ended up having a long conversation about how a pitcher can adapt to different roles. Smoltz was an All-Star as both a starter and reliever, and as Chamberlain said, “If I don’t take (something) from what that guy told me, I probably won’t listen to anybody.”
Among the pieces of advice Smoltz offered was that Chamberlain should try to treat relieving as though it was a “one-inning game.” Certainly it inspired Chamberlain tonight, as he looked absolutely devastating in striking out Adrian Beltre and J.D. Drew. The fastball to get Beltre hit 96 mph, and he used a nasty slider to get the last two strikes on Drew.
“It’s just getting back in the routine, getting comfortable with what I do down there,” he said. “When it’s all clicking, it feels right.”
Joe Girardi wouldn’t commit to sticking with Chamberlain in the eighth – he actually said he had considered leaving Dave Robertson in for the whole inning if things had gone differently – but it seems obvious that’s the direction the Yankees would like to ultimately go. “I’ll say this,” Girardi said. “We liked what we saw.”
Here’s Chamberlain talking earlier in the postgame session with the media (the Smoltz stuff came later, after the recording ended).
Courtesy of Chad, here are some other post-game clubhouse notes:
• As he did all spring, A.J. Burnett went out of his way to give credit to catcher Jorge Posada. He said Posada’s ability to block his curveball early in the game gave him the confidence to keep throwing it late. “My first couple of hooks aren’t exactly 60 footers,” Burnett said. “They’re more like 56 and a half.”
• Interesting story from Posada: “When (Mike Cameron) got hit by a curveball, I went out there and told him, get on top of the curveball a little bit more and he did it right away,” Posada said. “And his curveball then was biting the way it should, and it kind of helped him with everything else. The location of his pitches were a lot better after that.”
• Interesting quote from Nick Swisher: “I’m really just taking this, for the first time in my career, like a job. Show up, I do the work, make sure I’m doing everything the right way and it’s really working out. Maybe I’m just a little more focused.”
• Joe Girardi said he didn’t want to use Chan Ho Park because Park felt a little sick yesterday.
• Girardi said it was possible that Dave Robertson would have stayed in for all of the eighth inning had he not allowed that lead-off single, but Girardi didn’t give a firm comment on his plans for the eighth. My own opinion: Chamberlain looked pretty good.
• Nick Johnson has yet to get a hit for the Yankees, but he’s been on base five of the 10 times he’s gone to the plate. He’s walked four times and been hit by a pitch. “That’s why we went and got this guy,” Girardi said.
• The Yankees seemed universally pleased with the way Burnett pitched. Burnett said he would only take away the two mistakes to Victor Martinez. “I thought the only pitches that got away from me were the two to the same hitter,” he said. “The results weren’t what I wanted, but I felt like myself tonight.”
• Girardi on what he’s seen out of Robinson Cano’s two games as the No. 5 hitter: “His approach has been outstanding.”
Great job from everyone tonight. Make sure to check back throughout the day tomorrow as we’ll be all over the last game of the series.