Yankees ready to let Chamberlain loose

Yankees ready to let Joba loose

NEW YORK -- Throughout Joba Chamerblain's transition from the Yankees' bullpen to the starting rotation, manager Joe Girardi kept his young pitcher tethered to a tight pitch count.

The number has increased with each outing, but Girardi will cut the leash almost entirely when Chamberlain makes his fourth Major League start Thursday against the Padres.

He said the right-hander will be allowed to throw upwards of 100 pitches, a standard for most Major League starters.

But some limitations will remain.

"Obviously, I wouldn't anticipate going over 105 pitches next time or 110, where with a guy like Andy Pettitte, I'd let him go 115, 120 if his arm felt good. If [Pettitte] was throwing well, I wouldn't have a problem with doing that. But we're not quite ready to do that with Joba yet."

Girardi will continue to keep a close eye on the reliever-turned-starter. Chamberlain threw a career-high six innings and 89 pitches in his previous start against Houston on Friday, but Girardi said he'll look at a variety of factors to determine how long his starter will stay in the game.

"When you give a number, you also look at how taxing the innings are," Girardi said. "If he's breezing through and his innings are pretty easy, you might let him go 110."

Chamberlain's move to the starting rotation was actually a return to what he was used to in his college career before he joined the Yankees.

But while the 22-year-old pitcher built back his endurance, the Yankees needed to keep a long reliever fresh in the bullpen to take over once Chamberlain hit his designated pitch count.

General manager Brian Cashman said that meant the team had to keep its fingers crossed that no other starters recorded short outings in games prior to Chamberlain's turn in the rotation.

Without a specific number holding the righty back for Thursday's start, any added pressure on the bullpen has disappeared, and Chamberlain can focus solely on the quality of his throws.

"Before, you would predict two innings here, three innings there, maybe four innings max," Cashman said. "Now it's really about performance, how deep he can go into a game rather than a pitch count that's going to pull the plug early."

Pitching matchup
NYY: RHP Joba Chamberlain (1-2, 2.48 ERA)
Making his first career start away from Yankee Stadium on Saturday, Chamberlain hurled six strong innings in his last outing, showcasing his improving leg strength. His final pitch, a fastball past Brad Ausmus, was clocked at a mouth-watering 97 mph. Chamberlain scattered six hits and allowing one run while walking four (two intentionally) and striking out two. He also threw a wild pitch. This start represented the final hurdle for Chamberlain after he had thrown 62 pitches in his starting debut on June 3 vs. Toronto and then 78 on June 8 vs. Kansas City. One drawback -- catcher Jorge Posada said that the Astros had taken advantage of Chamberlain's slow move to the plate.

SD: RHP Josh Banks (2-0, 1.29 ERA)
Banks continues to give the Padres a nice return on their $20,000 waiver claim. He didn't get a decision Friday in Cleveland, a game that included a two-hour, 43-minute rain delay, though he left with the lead. Banks allowed three runs over five innings, including two home runs. Banks has allowed just four earned runs in his 28 innings since joining the team from Triple-A Portland last month.

Girardi said righty reliever LaTroy Hawkins will be used more in long relief and could throw up to 50 pitches if needed. ... With Alex Rodriguez's home run Wednesday, the Yankees have homered in 11 consecutive games. ... Robinson Cano has hit safely in each of his past eight games at Yankee Stadium.

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Up next
• Friday: Yankees (Mike Mussina, 10-4, 3.87) vs. Reds (Edinson Volquez, 9-2, 1.64), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Saturday: Yankees (Dan Giese, 1-1, 1.23) vs. Reds (Homer Bailey, 0-3, 8.76), 1:05 p.m. ET
• Sunday: Yankees (Andy Pettitte, 7-5, 4.29) vs. Reds (Johnny Cueto, 5-7, 5.19), 1:05 p.m. ET

Samantha Newman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.