NEW YORK -- Anything that might have been mistaken for tears running down Joba Chamberlain's face was only rain, but that does not mean the 26-year-old did not soak in the sights and sounds of an ovation at Yankee Stadium before beginning his first trot to a Major League mound in 14 months.
"It was something that I can't forget," Chamberlain said. "I remember it just like the first time I walked in the old Yankee Stadium ... the feeling I got to know I'm back out there."
The result will be forgotten quickly, once the right-hander looks at the film to see what he did wrong in his first big league appearance since June 5, 2011. Chamberlain allowed two runs in 1 2/3 innings Wednesday against the Orioles, and J.J. Hardy greeted him with a home run on the second pitch he threw.
It had nothing to do with the fact that the past seven times Chamberlain took the mound it was against Class A or Double-A competition on his rehab assignment, he said. It was just a bad pitch.
"A slider, middle to J.J. Hardy -- he gets paid to do that," Chamberlain said.
Chamberlain could afford some mistakes in his 2012 debut, which came a day after the Yankees called him back from a scheduled rehab appearance at Double-A Trenton and activated him from the disabled list. He had a 10-run lead to work with when he took over for Phil Hughes to start the seventh, and New York still won, 12-3.
The big right-hander allowed two more base hits after Hardy's home run in the seventh, but induced a double play to escape the inning without any more damage. He walked Mark Reynolds to start the eighth, then allowed an RBI double before recording two more outs and giving way to left-hander Clay Rapada to face Hardy.
Chamberlain threw 28 pitches, 16 for strikes.
"I was curious to see how he would do today, because I'm sure that was a lot of emotions," said manager Joe Girardi. "He threw strikes, so I'm with happy with that. I didn't think he tried to overthrow today, and I was happy with that."
Girardi said he expects Chamberlain to be a reliever who can face both left- and right-handed batters, and could eventually return to a seventh-inning role to set up David Robertson and closer Rafael Soriano at the back of the bullpen.
For now, Chamberlain is just happy to get his first appearance -- which he likened to his Major League debut in 2007 -- out of the way. And as he paused on the warning track in front of 44,593 for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery and suffering an open dislocation of his right ankle, he took a moment to savor it.
"You have to take a minute to embrace the fact that there are so many people that care, that followed my journey back here," Chamberlain said. "I'm thankful for that."
Steven Miller is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.