The New York Yankees knew their starting rotation was shaky at best when the season started and placed a lot of faith on their back end relievers, Rafael Soriano and Mariano Rivera, to pick up the slack. The real question was who would be the bridge between the starters and Soriano. Last night manager Joe Girardi made it clear Joba Chamberlain is officially the team's seventh-inning specialist.
The much-maligned and oft-shuffled Chamberlain, who arrived to spring training camp 25 pounds overweight and seemed like a long shot to even still be on the team, has pitched well enough in two chances in the seventh inning in the Yankees first four games to be awarded the spot.
For now it looks like Chamberlain, who has been a starter, eighth-inning closer and set-up man since coming up in 2007, has the security of a new official job title.
"Right now, that's what we're doing," said Girardi. "We love the way he threw the ball in spring training."
Even if Chamberlain didn't hear about it from Girardi, he seemed thrilled that the bouncing around is over.
"It's an honor and a privilege to have that role and, to know that with the arms we've got down there, they have enough confidence in me to get guys out."
Chamberlain has retired all six batters he's faced in the seventh inning this season and threw nine pitches in last night's 1-2-3 seventh to help the Yankees beat the Minnesota Twins.
Confidence had become a problem for righthander over the past few seasons and Girardi's pat-on-the-back can only help Chamberlain overcome that obstacle. No more insecurity or guessing what his role on the team would be.
"I never really got into a routine," said Chamberlain. "This is the first time in spring training in 4 1/2 years where I've had the opportunity in spring training to do exactly what I was going to do in the season."
Girardi said, "[Pedro] Feliciano is not healthy for us. There might be situations where you bring in both of them in for an inning. Feliciano to face a couple of lefties and Joba to face a rightie. But Joba has the ability to get lefties out, as well as righties."
The Joba Rules. Once, it was about about limiting Chamberlain's pitches. Finally, it's about getting an official role on the team.