Until today, Yankees manager Joe Girardi had never said anything definitive about the eighth-inning role in his bullpen. A front runner, though, had clearly emerged.
No Yankees reliever had been used as often or for as many innings Joba Chamberlain, and this afternoon Girardi made it clear that Chamberlain will be his go-to setup reliever ahead of Mariano Rivera.
“I think he’s done what most of us expected him to do,” Girardi said. “I think he’s enjoying himself and what he’s doing. It’s nice when guys have roles and you can turn to them and when the phone rings, they know it’s them.”
Chamberlain has pitched in seven of the Yankees 13 games. He’s been especially good in his past four outings, allowing two hits, one walk and striking out seven. When he learned he wouldn’t be the Yankees fifth starter, Chamberlain’s thoughts immediately turned to the eighth inning.
“That’s the first thing that came into my mind,” he said. “Knowing I’ve been in that situation before, but also knowing that I still have a lot to prove. Knowing it’s not going to be just handed to me.”
And here’s Chamberlain.
• How’s this for a stat Girardi knew off the top of his head this afternoon? Yesterday, Robinson Cano had five at-bats and saw 31 pitches. “That’s not something you probably would have said 2 or 3 years ago,” Girardi said.
• Girardi said he came into this series planning to give Nick Swisher today’s game off. “Just a day off for Swish and keeping everyone involved,” Girardi said.
• Dave Robertson is back with the team after missing yesterday’s game to attend his grandmother’s funeral in Alabama.
• Chamberlain is available tonight.
• What does Girardi want to see from Phil Hughes: “Not trying to do anything more than he did the last time,” Girardi said.
• As for a scouting report on Ben Sheets: “He’s basically fastball, curveball,” Girardi said. “At times he’s up in the zone. You have to make sure you don’t chase up there. A lot of times, that fastball looks very good when it’s above the belt.”
• Girardi said he “might” start Gardner against a left-handed starter again tomorrow.
UPDATE, 8:34 p.m.: Oakland’s lineup.
Cliff Pennington SS
Daric Barton 1B
Ryan Sweeney RF
Kurt Suzuki C
Eric Chavez DH
Kevin Kouzmanoff 3B
Gabe Gross CF
Adam Rosales 2B
Travis Buck LF
RHP Ben Sheets (1-0, 2.65)
Those are both Associated Press photos. The second is of Robinson Cano breaking up a double play last night. The first is of Chamberlain earlier this season.