ST. PETERSBURG -- Yankees right-hander Joba Chamberlain doesn't know how quickly he'll return to the Majors, but he's not ruling out anything and didn't hesitate to say it will be this season.
"I can promise you I'm going to pitch; I can promise you that," Chamberlain said on Monday at his locker in the visitors' clubhouse at Tropicana Field. "You can go ahead and write that down, too. Tell everybody that it's going to happen.
"We're going to take it one day at a time, but I can tell you it's going to happen soon. I don't have a date, don't have a set time, but we just continue to keep crossing stuff off the list and we're able to cross another one off today."
Chamberlain threw 40 pitches to two hitters during batting practice, then went through pitchers' fielding practice on Monday morning in Tampa, Fla., and he's set to progress to a simulated game on Friday. Yankees manager Joe Girardi watched Chamberlain pitch and reported back with positive reviews, saying the reliever's command, breaking ball and changeup all looked good.
Chamberlain has been running every day and feels no pain in the right ankle he dislocated during Spring Training, and his surgically repaired right elbow feels strong -- so strong, in fact, that he said he'd already be pitching for the Yankees if not for the ill-timed ankle injury.
"Without a doubt," Chamberlain said. "I totally forgot I even had elbow surgery, to be honest with you. I guess you just hurt another body part, and everything goes away.
"I know myself, and I know how I heal. There's going to be a lot of people that said I wasn't going to pitch. I'm fine with that. I'm OK with it. ... It's obviously not a common injury, but it's something I knew I was going to come back from."
Chamberlain was throwing from a stool about 2 1/2 weeks after the ankle injury, but he admitted that brief time off may have helped his arm after he made quick progress back from Tommy John surgery last June. Now, the hardest part of Chamberlain's recovery is staying patient.
"I think that's been the hardest part, especially because I've felt so good," Chamberlain said. "I've really had no pain from the get-go as well, just a little stiffness. The last step is obviously getting back with the ballclub, then a whole new list of things starts all over again. That's the last thing I'll cross off before I start a new list, then we'll go from there."
Despite eight stitches in lip, Ibanez pinch-hits
ST. PETERSBURG -- Yankees outfielder Raul Ibanez made it to Tropicana Field in plenty of time for Monday night's series-opening 4-3 loss to the Rays, but he showed up sporting a busted lower lip with eight stitches.
Ibanez, who grounded out as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning, sustained the injury while trying to get out of the way of a foul ball in the ninth inning of New York's 4-2 win over the White Sox on Sunday. He was in the Yankees' dugout at the time and hit a steel bench, losing half of an upper tooth that wound up stuck inside his lower lip.
"I should've taken the ball to the face," Ibanez quipped. "Next time, I will."
On Sunday, Ibanez visited an oral surgeon to stitch up his lip, and that's where the tooth -- in three different pieces -- was discovered inside his lip.
Ibanez saw a neurologist on Monday to make sure he didn't have a concussion. He said it hurts to smile, but he feels all right otherwise. Ibanez didn't know exactly how long the stitches will stay in, just that they'll be there for "a while."
Yanks option Wade to make room for Qualls
ST. PETERSBURG -- With disheveled hair and a clean-shaven face, Chad Qualls walked into the Yankees' clubhouse on Monday after an eventful few days.
"I guess I'll learn all the rules on the fly," Qualls quipped. "It's only facial hair. I'm not too worried about it."
On Sunday, New York completed a trade for Qualls, who had been designated for assignment by the Phillies on Thursday. To clear room on the 25-man roster, the Yankees optioned struggling right-hander Cory Wade to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Monday.
Manager Joe Girardi said he would mix the 33-year-old right-hander into the bullpen mix. Qualls went 1-1 with a 4.60 ERA in 35 appearances for Philadelphia.
"I was glad," Qualls said of the trade. "Obviously we're in first place, so anything I can do over here is a good change for me. I've been around for a little while, so I know I can come in and get key outs in crucial situations and help get the ball to [closer Rafael] Soriano in the ninth. I'm going to come in here and just throw wherever Joe wants me to throw and do my best."
Girardi said it was difficult to inform Wade he'd been optioned. After posting a 2.04 ERA in 39 2/3 innings last season, Wade saw his ERA climb to 5.79 after consecutive rough outings. Girardi said Wade had been dealing with command issues but expects him to help out the club at some point in the future.
"He's a guy that's meant a lot to us over the last year," Girardi said. "The last month has been a struggle for him, and we just talked about going down and getting your stuff right. ... Cory has been through it before, and I think he'll respond well to this."
Yanks agree with three international prospects
ST. PETERSBURG -- The international signing period opened on Monday, and the Yankees immediately made a splash with three teenage players.
New York agreed to terms with Dominican shortstop Luis Torrens, Venezuelan outfielder Alexander Palma and switch-hitting Dominican shortstop Yancarlos Baez, according to MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez. Torrens is MLB.com's No. 6 international prospect, and Palma is ranked seventh. Torrens' deal is worth $1.3 million, Palma agreed to an $800,000 contract and Baez will sign for $650,000. The Yankees have not confirmed the signings.
"I'm so happy," Palma told MLB.com. "This is very emotional. The only thing to do now is to go forward and keep working hard to get to the Major Leagues."
The new Collective Bargaining Agreement gives each club a $2.9 million signing pool for 2012-13, and any team that exceeds that amount will be penalized. By signing Torrens, Palma and Baez, the Yankees have spent approximately $2.75 million, giving them about $150,000 to work with.
Starting in 2013-14, the signing pools will be based on teams' winning percentages the prior season, with a minimum of around $1.7 million and a maximum of approximately $4.8 million.
Right-handed reliever David Aardsma, who has been out all season after undergoing Tommy John surgery last July, was shut down on Friday after three rehab outings and is heading to New York to undergo tests on his right elbow. Girardi didn't know the specifics of those tests, just that Aardsma "came up a little sore."
CC Sabathia, on the disabled list with a mild left groin strain, played catch at Tropicana Field before Monday night's game.