For Joba and Hughes, rust evident
Effects of flu a factor in Chamberlain's unsightly relief outing
TAMPA, Fla. -- Joba Chamberlain tossed half of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the trash, then mentally prepared to do the same with his first Grapefruit League start.
There wasn't much that Chamberlain wanted to keep from his opening audition in the all-spring race to be the Yankees' fifth starter, so it seemed a wise decision just to wipe the slate completely clean.
Chamberlain was shelled by the Rays for five runs in 1 1/3 innings during Friday's 12-7 loss to the Rays, though the 24-year-old right-hander left George M. Steinbrenner Field speaking optimistically about his improving health and many more chances to even the score with his main competitor, Phil Hughes.
"You're not going to win the battle by one game," Chamberlain said. "It's what you do before the game -- how you prepare yourself and how you're getting better. You're going to look at some [results], but it's how you get your work in."
That was something Chamberlain had some issues with this week, having suffered a nasty bout of flu-like symptoms that forced him to miss the club's fun-day field trip to GameWorks in Ybor City. Chamberlain spent most of two afternoons in bed and said he had lost a total of eight pounds, having barely eaten in three days.
His only sustenance on Thursday came in the form of a five-dollar footlong hero and swigs of Gatorade, and before his start on Friday, he spoke of being almost "scared to eat," choking down just half of that sandwich before taking the mound.
Once there, the scene wasn't pretty. Jason Bartlett raked a run-scoring triple to left-center off Chamberlain in the third inning and Sean Rodriguez followed with an RBI triple of his own to almost the same spot. Justin Ruggiano added a fourth-inning double that eluded right fielder Nick Swisher, chasing Chamberlain after 33 pitches, 14 of which were strikes.
"I'm not going to make too much of it," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "You wonder how much he had his legs under him after being fairly sick for a couple of days. We felt he was healthy enough to pitch, and you want him to pitch, because you want him to develop that arm strength. You really don't know exactly how he physically felt."
Girardi has said that the club won't decide its fifth starter until approximately March 25, so there's a lot of time for numbers to fall in line and Chamberlain to shake that flu bug.
But through the first day of official competition, Hughes said he considered his effort "OK," which was good enough to best his primary opponent.
Hughes, 23, served up a first-inning home run to Rodriguez and nothing else in two innings, walking one while throwing 18 of his 33 pitches for strikes. Hughes was most pleased with his improving changeup, especially those thrown to Ben Zobrist and B.J. Upton.
2010 Spring Training - New York Yankees
News & Features
- Yankees to play exhibition game at West Point
- CC expects to be ready for Spring Training
- Pettitte returns to hill with scoreless inning
- Garcia fans four as Yanks wrap up spring
- Worth noting
Sights & Sounds
Spring Training Info
"It was all right," Hughes said. "It was nice to finally get out there in real game situations. My fastball command was all over the place, but I felt like I threw some good changeups. They were swinging early and often, which was good. I got a read on some things."
While so much focus has been put on Hughes and Chamberlain this spring, the Yankees have been swift to remind that there are actually five contenders for the final rotation slot; Alfredo Aceves, Chad Gaudin and Sergio Mitre are also rolling in the mix.
"It's the first game -- they're just trying to make adjustments," catcher Francisco Cervelli said. "They will be better the next time. They need a little bit of time."
Hughes said that he felt a little amped up for the start, but not because of the competition aspect. This isn't Hughes' first big league spring, but he still gets excited to see the full crowds and get back on the mound after a long offseason. Those jitters should be gone by the second start.
"It sounds like I'm not telling the truth, but I'm just worried about what I'm doing out there," Hughes said. "I feel like if I get myself right, then that's all I can ask for going into the season. If that's not good enough, then that's not good enough. I just know what I need to do to be successful."
So does Chamberlain, and looking for positives, he said that he kept his changeup down and that most of his breaking balls ducked in for strikes. He said that his delivery was also good, providing something to build off.
But the biggest plus was this -- Chamberlain can soon get back in the workout rhythm he'd followed since February. Even though Friday's outing didn't work out, Chamberlain promised that he'd take the ball again every time under a similar situation.
"You'd probably have to chop my legs off," Chamberlain said. "I'm going to take the ball as much as I can and try to get better."
So, after one outing for each pitcher in this five-headed competition, who is actually ahead?
"You tell me," Hughes said, munching on a granola bar. "I don't have the meter."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.