While the organization isn't ready to budge from that plan yet, manager Joe Girardi cracked open a sliver of possibility on Saturday that the hard-throwing right-hander may remain in relief for the rest of the 2008 season, given the Yankees' needs.
"That's possible, yes," Girardi said.
Girardi was asked if the Yankees' stance represented something of a departure from their consistent statements that they view Chamberlain as a starting pitcher in the long-term picture. The Yankees have said he would be moved at some point.
"Some point could be next year, it could be two years," Girardi said. "[That] there's no exact timetable is what I'm telling you exactly. Could it happen in month A, B, C, D? Yes. I don't really have an exact timetable to tell you when it's going to happen."
General manager Brian Cashman said that the Yankees continue to have a plan for Chamberlain, but without divulging that blueprint, he seemed to attribute Girardi's statement to general fatigue of Chamberlain's situation and its non-stop speculation.
"I think we're all probably tired of talking about when," Cashman said. "He's in the bullpen right now, and we certainly have a plan for him. When we decide to make the change, we'll let you know. It's as simple as that."
The rookie has often grinned and said he "gives people something to talk about." Chamberlain's performance -- he owns a 2.60 ERA over 16 appearances and has struck out 20 in 17 1/3 innings -- has played a major role, but more and more, that discussion has included both Cashman and Girardi.
The Yankees' problems of late have been more related to their silent offense than their starting pitching, Cashman said, and he noted that he is "worn out" on the topic of Chamberlain.
"Let's just leave it alone," Cashman said. "Joba is pitching for us out of the 'pen right now. I'm not going to even speculate on when we're going to make the change and put him in the rotation. He's a reliever right now for us. Leave him there.
"We also have some young guys in the bullpen that are doing well and emerging over time, which is nice to see and gives us more choices. I'm not going to fast-forward any more. We've done enough of that."
Girardi said that he would keep the Yankees' discussions regarding Chamberlain in-house, but he said the rotation "is not something we've talked about right now" and that when he would potentially move "is not a preset decision."
Chamberlain would need to be sent to the Minor Leagues to expand his pitch count if the Yankees were to execute the change in-season. Chamberlain's highest pitch count this season came at Chicago on April 24, when he tossed 33 pitches in 1 1/3 innings, taking his first Major League loss.
"It'll take some time, because the most pitches that you'll probably see him throw in a day [now] is 35 in an outing," Girardi said. "Then you're asking him to get up to 100 pitches, so that takes time for any starter. You figure you'd go 35-50 to maybe 65 or 70-85, just like you would in Spring Training."
It is little secret that the club is keeping a strict innings limit on all three of its top young prospects -- Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy. Hughes is in no danger of exceeding his limit since he will be sidelined until July with a broken rib in his right side, but Chamberlain and Kennedy are both still under the microscope.
"Everyone knows there's some innings limitations on Joba Chamberlain, all of our kids," Girardi said. "You can't abuse them their first full season in the big leagues. We have to be very careful. We look at it long-term."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.