Strong start a 'sigh of relief' for Joba
Correction of mechanical flaw returns young righty to past form
TAMPA, Fla. -- The final spot in the Yankees' starting rotation remains Joba Chamberlain's to lose, and a strong performance against the Reds on Tuesday displayed the progress that the organization wanted to see.
Using mechanical tweaks to his advantage, Chamberlain limited the Reds to one run in three innings at George M. Steinbrenner Field, washing away a bitter outing and finally completing a successful spring start.
"I'd be lying to you if I didn't say it was a sigh of relief," Chamberlain said. "There was a sense of urgency to get it going. You understand that there's work to be done, but you also have to have that kick in the rear end every once in a while."
Making his third start of the spring, Chamberlain threw 29 pitches (20 for strikes), showcasing his fastball, slider and curveball effectively. He struck out three and walked none, allowing only a third-inning run on Chris Dickerson's RBI triple.
"That was pretty good tonight," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "Everything was better. You want to see the guys get going. He turned it up a notch, and the result was what we wanted."
Chamberlain had to move into high gear after he struggled mightily on Thursday in an exhibition game against Team Canada, facing five batters and retiring none, with four walks and a wild pitch issued.
"I even think some players talked to him a little bit, too," Girardi said. "It was great to watch all of the starting pitchers on the top rail, [saying], 'OK, pull your weight. Let's go.'"
The Yankees' immediate concern was that Chamberlain could have been injured, but he told Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman that he felt "awesome."
The problem was mechanical, and pitching coach Dave Eiland spotted issues that required attention over the next four days. The tweaks made an immediate impact on Tuesday.
"As soon as I threw my first pitch in the bullpen, it just felt different," Chamberlain said.
Girardi said that Chamberlain's front leg was wrapping around his body when he lifted it to begin his windup. Chamberlain added that he had some extra energy behind the rubber and was collapsing on his follow-through, leading to wildness.
"It's just two little things, and you can feel like you're close," Chamberlain said. "It's just standing taller over the rubber and feeling more comfortable. The ball came out feeling a lot better, and the numbers translated."
One year after the Yankees handed rookies Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy starting roles coming into the season, they have been cautious about setting anything in stone.
Chamberlain has been told that he will serve the entire season as a starter to build up his pitch count, but the Yankees needed to see improvement to keep those plans on track. Chamberlain said that he is pitching as though he needs to win his spot.
"I always think that," Chamberlain said. "There's a lot of guys behind me that want my job, just like I want CC [Sabathia], A.J. [Burnett] and Chien-Ming [Wang]'s job.
"That makes our team better. You know there's guys behind you that are going to push you. That's the good part about this team, that there's so many talented guys."
Chamberlain's velocity is about where the Yankees want it. Cashman said that Chamberlain was clocked at 92 and 93 mph against Team Canada, and television radar guns showed his high at 96 mph on Tuesday.
Girardi said that the early wildness was not a cause for concern.
"It's March 10th -- it's a long way off," Girardi said. "As long as our guys are healthy, that's the most important thing."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.