TRENTON, N.J. – Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain assured everyone he would be in Trenton to fulfill his Major League Rehabilitation Assignment in Trenton Sunday evening.
“I’m in a lot of traffic,’’ he relayed on his Twitter account, “but I’m looking forward to pitching in Trenton.’’
After arriving at Waterfront Park, and signing autographs for a good 20 minutes, he prepared to get down to business, which he later took care of quite well.
Chamberlain, who has not pitched for the Yankees since early July 2011, having been sidelined first by an elbow injury and subsequent Tommy John surgery, then by the infamous trampoline accident and ensuing ankle injury sustained playing with his son in Florida this past March 22, was impressive on the Waterfront Park mound Sunday.
In March, some speculated the injury serious enough to be career-threatening, but reports of Chamberlain’s demise were highly exaggerated.
He threw 30 pitches – 23 for strikes – reached the 97-98 mph neighborhood with his fastball, showed a sharp-breaking curve and swing-and-miss slider, allowing one hit and striking out three.
“Everything’s good,’’ said Chamberlain. “I just want to get back up to the Yankees and give those guys some help. Physically, everything is great. I feel great. I’m putting my pitches where I want. The mental part of it, the pace of the game, is what I need to make sure about now.’’
Chamberlain entered the Double-A Thunder’s game with Harrisburg in the top of the seventh – and actually emerged as the winning pitcher when Trenton rallied for three runs in the bottom of the eighth, and concentrated on throwing his fastball.
In the top of the eighth, he featured more of his curve and slider, easily dominating all of the Harrisburg hitters except one, former Seton Hall star Tim Pahuta, He managed to retire Pahuta, but not before the New Jersey native challenged him with a nine-pitch at-bat.
Pahuta fouled off three pitches before Chamberlain got him on a slider. It was a worthwhile test for the rehabbing reliever.
"It's great to see those at-bats," Chamberlain said. "The two outings before (in Florida), I threw nine pitches and 10 pitches. To be able to get into some extended at-bats and get some guys who have been around a while, have seen some guys and know that they have a plan at that plate, that's the biggest obstacle."
Chamberlain, who was a starter in the minors and shuttled back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen, is now strictly a reliever. The 26-year-old (he turns 27 in September) is a more reflective individual than he was when he was younger.
“I come back here, where I pitched in 2007, and I love seeing our younger kids play and appreciate the grind they go through in the minors. This also makes me appreciate the fact I can put on the uniform and play baseball.
“It’s something I want to keep doing for awhile, something I don’t take for granted.’’
Chamberlain, who has a non-guaranteed contract in the $1.7 million neighborhood for 2012, is close to helping the Yankees down the stretch. The program was for him to play catch Monday and perhaps pitch again in Trenton Tuesday.
Naturally the Yankees and manager Joe Girardi are looking forward to having Chamberlain back in the mix in the seventh or eighth inning. Speculation has him returning somewhere around Aug. 6.
“I think I’m just about ready,’’ Chamberlain said, “but I can control only what I can control. I do plan on being back soon.’’
photo courtesy of Mike Ashmore - Thunder Thoughts
Reflective Chamberlain on verge of returning to Yankees, writes Jed Weisberger.