Joba not thinking about being a starter

Joba not thinking about being a starter

NEW YORK -- The Yankees may be heading to Spring Training on the lookout for starting pitching options, but Joba Chamberlain knows he isn't being considered for another audition.

Chamberlain has been told that the organization sees him only as a reliever, now and in the future, though the 25-year-old right-hander told reporters in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday that he was not surprised that some wondered if his name would come up as an option.

"I don't know if that debate is ever going to stop," Chamberlain said, according to The Associated Press. "I guess you take it with a grain of salt. If that comes up in the future, then I'll answer that question. Right now, you can't think about it."

The Yankees are more than open to the idea of acquiring help that would make sense for their rotation, having been unable to sign top winter target Cliff Lee, holding a retirement news conference for Andy Pettitte last week and hoping for a rebound season from A.J. Burnett.

They have assembled a pool of back-end rotation candidates that includes players like Ivan Nova, Sergio Mitre, Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon. But in putting that group together, Chamberlain was bypassed, his place locked into the bullpen.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said last month that Chamberlain has not been the same pitcher since suffering a right shoulder injury in August 2008.

"Since the injury in Texas, his stuff is different now," Cashman said. "We've seen over time that his stuff plays so much better as a reliever since he hurt his shoulder."

Once projected as a top-flight starting pitching prospect that Hank Steinbrenner said would be the Yankees' answer to the Red Sox's Josh Beckett, Chamberlain spent all of 2010 in the bullpen after losing out to Phil Hughes in a spring battle to serve as New York's fifth starter.

In a team-leading 73 relief appearances, Chamberlain was 3-4 with three saves and a 4.40 ERA, though he eventually lost an eighth-inning setup role due to inconsistency and was pushed back on the relief depth chart.

"I learned a lot about pitching, to use things in certain counts and to your advantage, [and] how to approach hitters," Chamberlain said. "That was one of the things coming up as a young kid that I really didn't pay much attention to."

Chamberlain figures to be competing for innings leading up to eighth-inning setup man Rafael Soriano, imported from the Rays as a free agent after leading the league with 45 saves last year, and longtime closer Mariano Rivera.

"Anywhere from the sixth inning on, I would assume," Chamberlain said. "I've got to embrace it and try to do the best I can to help us win another championship. We've got a pretty good bullpen. It's going to be fun out there with those guys."

Chamberlain threw 30 pitches off a mound at the Yankees' Himes Avenue complex on Wednesday, his first full Spring Training workout, and reporters on site noticed Chamberlain appears noticeably bigger.

The New York Post estimated that Chamberlain may have gained 10 to 15 pounds. Chamberlain said that he built a gymnasium at his home and attributed the weight gain to his workouts.

"I actually feel better," Chamberlain said, according to the Post. "My weight feels stronger. I feel great."

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