Notes: Joba changes pace
Montero earns Girardi's praise; Albaladejo aiming for 'pen spot
TAMPA, Fla. -- The fans knew exactly who No. 62 was, reserving their loudest cheers of Friday afternoon for Joba Chamberlain's live batting-practice session. But if you were going solely by the right-hander's repertoire, he might as well have been a stranger.
After compiling extraordinary results last season on the strength of just two pitches, a high-octane fastball and biting slider, Chamberlain threw a new wrinkle at Yankees batters. Under steamy, artificial hitting conditions, it was Chamberlain's changeup that starred.
"The goal is to get him to be a complete pitcher," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "We envision him as a starter and to be able to use all of those pitches. It just gives him more weapons, especially when you're going through a lineup the third and fourth times."
Chamberlain, 22, still doesn't know whether he'll open the season in the Yankees' rotation or the bullpen, but at least one matter has been settled. If Chamberlain is healthy, it's certain that he'll have some sort of role in New York. No matter what that is, it'll be important.
"Whether I start or relieve, I'm going to need them all at some time or another," Chamberlain said. "We can't all be so gifted to throw a great cutter [like Mariano Rivera]. We've got to be able to do other things."
Chamberlain didn't need to last year, when he believes he compiled an 0.38 ERA down the stretch using 98 percent fastballs and sliders. To the best of his recollection, Chamberlain threw only four curveballs and three changeups in regular-season duty, and one of those changeups was by accident.
The challenges will keep coming, and even though it may sometimes seem the boisterous Chamberlain is oblivious to pressure, the importance of preparation has been absorbed.
"It's weird to think about what a difference a year makes," Chamberlain said. "You can't be satisfied. You've got to work even harder to be as good or better than you were last year. That's something that motivates me every day."
Saying that he believes he is in the best shape of his life, Chamberlain focused his offseason workouts on dropping body fat and strengthening his body's core, putting special attention on his legs to generate power and drive.
Not that it was easy heeding all of those early-morning wakeup calls for the gym.
"I wanted to punch myself in the face," Chamberlain said. "It's not fun when you're doing it. The hardest part is just getting going. It's getting your butt there, but once you get there, it's fun. You feel good, you feel better about yourself, and it gets your day going."
The Bosses break bread: Father and son dined together Friday at Max's Cafe beneath Legends Field, as George and Hank Steinbrenner stopped by the ballpark cafeteria for a leisurely lunch. Hank said that George's favorite time of year is still Spring Training, but that doesn't change the hunger once March 31 rolls around.
"Our objective is to win, period," Hank Steinbrenner said. "The easier [that is to accomplish], the happier I'll make him."
Haven't we met? It doesn't happen often, but early every spring, Chien-Ming Wang and Mike Mussina get to face the likes of Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon.
Though the Yankees will have intrasquad games later this month, Friday presented a good first opportunity to get acquainted under controlled conditions -- no umpires, no baserunners, and a protective "L" screen shielding the pitchers from line drives.
Not that they particularly needed them. At this early stage of camp, pitchers are ahead of hitters as a rule, leaving the men throwing the baseballs with most of the accolades. Girardi said that Mussina located his pitches down in the zone well and commended Wang's sinker, while also touting left-hander Sean Henn and right-hander Steven Jackson in the workout.
"I thought all of them did a pretty good job today," Girardi said.
The most important thing at this stage in camp, Girardi said, is making sure the pitchers are comfortable as their workload expands. The offensive raves were reserved mostly for 18-year-old catching prospect Jesus Montero, who ripped four line drives off Wang and took a ball the opposite way to the warning track in right field.
"He's a strong young man, a strong young hitter," Girardi said.
Seems so easy: Jonathan Albaladejo doesn't believe that life in the big leagues was as simple as it was last September, when the 25-year-old right-hander reeled off a 1.88 ERA in 14 games for the Nationals. Then again, he doesn't have anything else to go off.
"I just learned that you've got to throw strikes, just like any other league," Albaladejo said. "If you don't throw strikes, you're not going to get outs and you're not going to be successful. I'm trying to work from the middle of the plate to the corner, so I'll try to do the same thing here."
Albaladejo came to the Yankees in a December trade for right-hander Tyler Clippard, a move that could be a win-win for both clubs. Clippard was superfluous to the Yankees' rotation needs, and Albaladejo could very well win a spot in Girardi's relief corps.
"I think I'm a contender for a spot in the bullpen," Albaladejo said. "Hopefully, I get a chance, but I have no idea what's going to happen."
Bombers bits: Outfield prospect Austin Jackson (back spasms) is expected out on the field Saturday. Girardi said he was improving. ... The Yankees are looking at Jason Lane mostly as an outfielder. He had several solid rips in batting practice on Friday. ... Girardi said the Yankees have no plans for Hideki Matsui to see time at first base in Spring Training.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.