Thursday, December 12, 2013

Joba Chamberlain signs one-year deal with Tigers

A meeting between Joba Chamberlain and the Tigers at the Winter Meetings on Wednesday resulted in a one-year, $2.5 million deal plus incentives for the right-handed reliever who now gets a chance to rebuild his career in Detroit.

The Tigers see the 27-year-old Chamberlain as their answer to pitch the seventh inning and hope he can eventually handle the eighth if Bruce Rondon can’t. Rondon was shut down in late September and missed the postseason due to a strained flexor muscle in the right arm. 

They are also hoping a change of scenery will help Chamberlain regain his early career potential.

When Chamberlain debuted in 2007, he was so good many envisioned him as Mariano Rivera’s replacement thanks to a triple-digit fastball and nasty slider. However, an ill-advised plan to make him a starter didn’t work. He made 12 starts in 2008 and was jerked around under what would become known as the "Joba Rules." 

The following year he was 9-6 with a 4.75 ERA in 32 games (31 starts) but returned the bullpen in 2010 and hasn’t made a big league start since 2009.

A seemingly unending series of misfortunes and health problems plagued Chamberlain throughout his up-and-mostly-down career in pinstripes. He underwent Tommy John surgery in 2011 and fractured an ankle in spring training on a trampoline in 2012.

This past season was easily the most disappointing of Chamberlain’s six as a Yankee. He missed most of May with a strained right oblique muscle and was often used by manager Joe Girardi as a mop up man. He was often booed off the Yankee Stadium mound by the same fans who were wild about him in 2007.

Late in the season Chamberlain’s velocity rose to the mid-90s consistently but the put away slider didn’t surface.

"I never saw that slider," a scout from another team said of Chamberlain’s out pitch. "He also needed to get back in shape because he was too big."

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