Joba Chamberlain— who expected to pitch his final rehab game in a Double-A Trenton game before returning to the Yankees— suddenly found himself being called up to the New York bullpen instead on Tuesday.
The Yankees' righthander— who was rehabbing from June 2011 Tommy John surgery when he broke his ankle in a freak trampoline accident during spring training this March— made his first appearance on the mound in Yankee Stadium in over 14 months.
Like a swarm of Cleveland midges, those things circling inside Chamberlain's head could have been the collective doubts that the one-time starter would return this year or ever even pitch again.
On Wednesday afternoon, Chamberlain— who vowed to return this season— silenced the skeptics and pitched 1-1/3 innings against the Baltimore Orioles to fulfill his promise, if not his potential.
Bolstered by a good outing by starter Phil Hughes (11-8) and an 11-1 lead, manager Joe Girardi saw the perfect opportunity to acclimate his comeback kid with the major leagues again. He called for Chamberlain from the bullpen in the seventh inning. The big rightie got a nice hand from the rain-soaked crowd but wasn't at the top of his game. The kinks showed and he promptly gave up a home run before allowing four more hits over the five-out stint.
Joba threw 28 rusty pitches with a lot of breaking balls in the mix. His once 97 mph fastball hovered around the 92-93 mph range.
It was enough to get Chamberlain back into the mix. More importantly, the 12-3 Yankees' win stopped the Orioles from sweeping the Yankees in the Bronx for the first time since 1986, halted a four-game skid and gave them a 6-1/2 game lead over the rising O's in the AL East.
After the game, Girardi had Joba's back. "I expect him to be able to get out righthanded hitters," he said. "He'll continue to improve as time goes on."