'Joba Rules' being rewritten for 2008

'Joba Rules' being rewritten for 2008

NEW YORK -- The Yankees believe that Joba Chamberlain will be just as dominant in their starting rotation as he was in relief. Then again, it wouldn't hurt to keep that latter option.

With Chamberlain already throwing off mounds at the club's training facility in Tampa, Fla., the Yankees have repeatedly insisted that they are preparing to groom him as a starter when pitchers and catchers officially report on Feb. 14.

Since innings are a consideration, the Yankees may have some creative routes in store for handling Chamberlain -- up to and including the possibility that he could see some time in the bullpen, where he excelled as a setup man late last year.

"Anything can happen, so you don't rule anything out," pitching coach Dave Eiland said in a telephone interview. "But we're going into it right now with Joba as a starter. We're going to see where that takes us."

Chamberlain, 22, burst onto the Major League scene after making his debut in August, going 2-0 with one save and a 0.38 ERA in 19 relief appearances before suffering a memorable blown save in Game 2 of the American League Division Series at Cleveland.

Accustomed to duty as a starter in college and the Minors, Chamberlain was protected with what came to be known as the "Joba Rules." As a starting pitcher, many of those limitations -- such as the since-relaxed bans on pitching back-to-back days -- would be rendered moot.

But after throwing only 112 1/3 innings in his first professional season, Chamberlain -- and his workload -- will be watched closely. The Yankees plan to have tight grips on not only Chamberlain but on young hurlers Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy, among others.

"Obviously, at the Major League level, winning is first," Eiland said. "We're going to have to watch that and monitor that to protect them, but we're trying to win each and every ballgame that they pitch in as well. I really don't foresee it as a problem.

"When [manager] Joe [Girardi] was in Miami with the Marlins, he had to do a lot of that with a young staff. It's not going to be anything that's new to us."

One thing the Yankees will not do, Eiland said, is open the season with a six-man rotation. Chamberlain, Hughes and Kennedy are all considered strong contenders to open the year in New York, but the Yankees also have 19-game winner Chien-Ming Wang, 15-game winner Andy Pettitte and veteran Mike Mussina to consider.

Eiland is entering his first year as the Yankees' pitching coach after serving in the same role at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last year. He has already been joined in Tampa by Chamberlain, Hughes and Jeff Karstens, with more pitchers set to report later this week.

Eiland said that he has spoken with a number of the pitchers and is closely coordinating scheduling with bench coach Rob Thomson to help his first camp run smoothly.

"Weather permitting and health permitting, I've got the first week to 10 days of the rotation in place," Eiland said. "We're pretty much ready for it. We're going to hammer the fundamentals and basics -- basically, Pitching 101: working ahead in the count, throwing strike one, attacking the strike zone with quality strikes. It's really a simple philosophy."

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