Joba ready for rotation debut vs. Jays

No more part-time Joba

MINNEAPOLIS -- For the first time in his brief Major League career, Joba Chamberlain had a reason to fly ahead of the Yankees.

By the time New York finished a four-game split with the Minnesota on Monday, Chamberlain had already safely landed in the Big Apple, resting for his long-anticipated Major League starting debut on Tuesday.

Such are the perks of life as a member of the rotation, as Chamberlain is quickly learning. The Yankees intend for him to continue to absorb all the lessons of life as a starter from this point forward.

"It was something that I've always done, and I wanted to give it a shot," Chamberlain said. "I wanted to accept that challenge of being dominant for seven innings and not only one.

"As hard as I've been pitching my whole life, it's another one I'm excited about, and while I hate to leave the bullpen -- I hate to leave my guys in there -- I know when I give the ball to them, I'm going to be fine."

This was the Yankees' plan from the early days of Spring Training, though they weren't always as forthcoming with the mapped-out route.

What is known of Tuesday's mission plan is that Chamberlain will be permitted to throw 65-70 pitches against the Blue Jays' lineup, meaning that the Yankees are not necessarily expecting length from Chamberlain this time around.

For the first start, five innings would be outstanding; in each successive start, the Yankees can expand Chamberlain's pitch count by about 15 pitches until he reaches the neighborhood of 100.

"I just want to see him compete," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I don't want him to get in long innings. I want him to be aggressive like he is when he comes out of the bullpen. Use your stuff when you have an opportunity to use your stuff to get outs, that's the bottom line."

Chamberlain's status and where he would best serve the Yankees has fueled New York talk radio for months.

Even Yankees co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner has chimed in on numerous occasions, opining that he would prefer to see Chamberlain in the starting rotation as soon as possible. Steinbrenner will be watching on television from Tampa, Fla., as his wish will be finally granted.

"It's the first start in what could be a 15-year career," Steinbrenner told the Associated Press on Monday. "With him, we're all looking not just for the rest of this year, we're looking even right now a few years ahead already. That's what counts to us."

Chamberlain knows he's a hot-button issue in the five boroughs and beyond, but he insists that he hasn't been listening to the radio, watching television or reading the newspapers and Internet.

"I think it's easier for me that way. I just don't get caught up in it," Chamberlain said. "I guess if it gives people something to talk about and people to argue about it, so be it.

"But it's going to be something that whatever happens, good or bad with the starting thing, people are going to say, 'Oh, he should have done this, he should have done that.' That's just going to be the way it is."

As dominant as Chamberlain has been in relief, the Yankees believe he will be a topflight big league starting pitcher. At least for the purposes of Tuesday's game, the Blue Jays were taking the knowledge that Chamberlain was out of the eighth-inning mix as a positive.

"It's better than facing him for that one at-bat in the eighth, when you know you have Mariano Rivera coming behind him," Jays first baseman Lyle Overbay said.

"All I know is, he has one of the best arms in the game," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "They think this is the best move for their team. It's not like he's been a reliever his whole life and now they're going to make him a starter. And we won't have to worry about seeing him in the eighth anymore."

Converted from starting in the Minor Leagues last year after the All-Star break, Chamberlain made an immediate impact at the big league level, posting an 0.38 ERA in 19 regular-season appearances.

He began his transition from the bullpen to the rotation on May 21 vs. Baltimore, hurling two innings of scoreless one-hit relief; in his third and final "transition" appearance on Wednesday, Chamberlain threw 1 1/3 scoreless innings before unloading 27 more pitches in the bullpen at Oriole Park to get up to 55 for the evening.

"I understand what it's going to take and how hard it is," Chamberlain said. "I understand that I'm going to take my licks. I've got to learn from that and continue to try to get better every day."

Girardi reflected on some of the other hyped debuts in recent memory -- the Cubs with both Kerry Wood and Mark Prior leapt to the manager's mind, as well as the mid-90's Mets "Generation K" trio of Bill Pulsipher, Jason Isringhausen and Paul Wilson.

The difference, Girardi said, is that people already know what to expect from Chamberlain -- a high-90s fastball, a biting slider, a curveball and changeup that will see increased but not forced action.

"It's not like someone you've been hearing about in the Minor Leagues for the last three or four years -- that the club is hanging [its] hat on this one guy being [its] No. 1," Girardi said, "Joba's been here. People have an idea of what to expect. They'll get to see him a little bit longer."

Pitching matchup
NYY: RHP Joba Chamberlain (1-2, 2.28 ERA)
Chamberlain will make his first Major League start at Yankee Stadium, completing his transition from the bullpen to the rotation. Tuesday will mark Chamberlain's first professional start since July 25, 2007, for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he pitched five scoreless innings of four-hit ball against Louisville, walking one and striking out 10 in his International League debut.

TOR: RHP Roy Halladay (6-5, 2.93 ERA)
Over his past two starts, Halladay has gone 2-0 with a 1.06 ERA, giving him a 4-1 record with a 2.52 ERA in May. During the season's second month, the 2003 American League Cy Young Award winner was in top form, striking out 40 and walking just four in 39 1/3 innings. On Wednesday, he defeated the Royals behind eight crisp innings in which he yielded only one run on eight hits with nine strikeouts and one walk, which was the first free pass that Doc has issued since May 9. Halladay is 10-5 with a 3.03 ERA in 27 career games against the Yankees.

Tidbits
Chamberlain has seen a little bit of the Blue Jays. Alex Rios is 1-for-4 (.250) and Matt Stairs is 1-for-1 against him, but no other Toronto player has a career hit vs. Chamberlain. ... Chamberlain was 9-2 with a 2.56 ERA in 15 career Minor League starts, walking 27 and striking out 125 in 84 1/3 innings. He allowed 61 hits and 25 runs (24 earned). ... Right-hander LaTroy Hawkins expects to have his appeal of a three-game suspension heard on Tuesday in New York. Hawkins was suspended and fined $2,000 for allegedly throwing intentionally at Baltimore's Luke Scott on May 20. ... The Yankees plan to add right-hander Dan Giese to the roster as a long reliever before Tuesday's game. Giese was 4-2 with a 2.02 ERA over 12 appearances (nine starts) at Triple-A.

Tickets
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On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• YES

On radio
• WCBS 880, WNSW 1430 (Español)

Up next
• Wednesday: Blue Jays (Jesse Litsch, 7-1, 3.18) at Yankees (Mike Mussina, 8-4, 4.26), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Thursday: Blue Jays (Dustin McGowan, 4-4, 3.95) at Yankees (Chien-Ming Wang, 6-2, 4.14), 1:05 p.m. ET
• Friday: Royals (Kyle Davies, 1-0, 1.80) at Yankees (TBD), 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.