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04/25/08 3:20 AM ET

Yanks return to Cleveland motivated

New York (12-11) at Cleveland (10-12), Friday, 7:05 p.m. ET

CHICAGO -- Joba Chamberlain knew the questions would be inevitable as the Yankees prepared to return to Cleveland for the first time since last year's American League Division Series -- the scene of the crime, as it was, where a swarm of Lake Erie midges followed a heat and moisture trail all the way to the pitcher's mound at Progressive Field, then known as Jacobs Field.

If you've seen any baseball highlights in the months that followed, or the ESPN commercial parodying the event, you already know the rest of the story. The distracted Chamberlain threw a wild pitch that allowed the Indians to tie the game in the eighth inning before Cleveland eventually won Game 2 in 11 frames, taking a commanding 2-0 series lead as the set moved back to New York.

For Chamberlain, it was but one sour moment in what had been a storybook debut campaign in which he compiled a 0.38 ERA in 19 regular-season appearances from August on and proved to be a virtually unhittable asset in the Yankees' late-inning relief mix. No one could have anticipated what would happen once the bugs swarmed in.

"You can't prepare, but it prepared me for everything," Chamberlain says now, looking back. "I don't think there are a lot of things that can happen to me in the game of baseball that I won't be prepared for. ... The fact of the matter is, I didn't do my job. It all comes down to the bugs, and it [stinks], but I didn't do my job. That's the part that kills you the most."

By the time Chamberlain was in the shower, cleaning the bugs out of his hair and from behind his ears, he was already beginning to put the game behind him, knowing that a Game 3 awaited back at Yankee Stadium.

Chamberlain's main concern came months later, when he heard former Yankees manager Joe Torre state that his primary chagrin of the '07 campaign was not approaching home-plate umpire Bruce Froemming to stop the game while Chamberlain, batters and the Yankees' infielders swatted the pests away from their faces.

"It definitely made me work harder, to come back and be better," Chamberlain said. "The only regret I have is that Joe [Torre] has that regret on me, not stopping the game. It's not his. That was on me. That's my only regret as far as that goes, and that I didn't make my pitches."

The incident, of course, has only added to Chamberlain's budding cult-hero status, which transcends die-hard baseball fans. Walking through an airport over the winter, Chamberlain was spotted by a passerby who pointed and exclaimed that he was "the bug guy."

A pest spray company even came calling during the offseason with an endorsement deal, which Chamberlain rejected, and in Tampa, Fla., he randomly met the teenager who paid $673 for the can of Off! spray in an MLB.com auction.

For his return trip to Cleveland, Chamberlain believes he has a secret weapon in tow. He recently spoke to a friend -- a Cleveland-area police officer -- who suggested that vinegar could be helpful to repel the midges if, by some chance, they return for a second engagement on the field. But Chamberlain hopes the biggest problem he should have all weekend is handling the Indians the next time around.

"They've got a great lineup, a lot of good young talent down there," Chamberlain said. "You've got to execute pitches ... and try to avoid the bugs."

Pitching matchup
NYY: LHP Andy Pettitte (3-1, 2.45 ERA)
Pettitte again filled the role of stopper for the Yankees on Sunday, retiring the first 14 batters he faced and needing only 89 pitches to blank the Orioles for seven innings and end New York's four-game losing streak. Satisfied that Pettitte's velocity and command are finally coming around, the Yankees used an off-day on Monday to insert Pettitte between Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy in hopes of saving the bullpen.

CLE: RHP Paul Byrd (0-2, 4.43 ERA)
After two especially rough starts to open the season, Byrd has regained his command of the strike zone and come on strong in recent starts, giving up just one earned run over his last two starts. That run came on a Brendan Harris homer in Byrd's outing against the Twins on Sunday, and it cost him a decision. Still, he gave up just that homer and five other hits, walking none and striking out three in seven innings. The Indians kept Byrd on another tight pitch count, as he threw just 43 pitches in his second start of the season, against the Angels on April 9.

Derek Jeter is a lifetime .407 hitter (11-for-27) against Byrd, with three doubles and a triple to his credit. ... Jhonny Peralta has hit Pettitte well -- he's 2-for-5 with a double and a triple, having driven in two runs. ... Pettitte is 24-12 as a member of the Yankees in the April and, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, he has the most wins in April in franchise history. Mel Stottlemyre is second with 23. ... Pettitte last faced the Indians in the memorable ALDS Game 2 at Cleveland, taking a no-decision after pitching 6 1/3 scoreless innings.

 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• MY9

On radio
• WCBS 880, WNSW 1430 (Español)

Up next
• Saturday: Yankees (Ian Kennedy, 0-2, 9.64) at Indians (Jeremy Sowers, 0-0, -.--), 3:55 p.m. ET
• Sunday: Yankees (Chien-Ming Wang, 4-0, 3.94) at Indians (C.C. Sabathia, 1-3, 10.13), 1:05 p.m. ET
• Monday: Yankees (Mike Mussina, 2-3, 4.94) at Indians (Aaron Laffey, 0-0, -.--), 7:05 p.m. ET

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.