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Joba to pitch an inning in relief in finale

Joba to pitch an inning in relief in finale

ST. PETERSBURG -- For at least one day, the Yankees are putting Joba Chamberlain back in the bullpen.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that the club has reconsidered its stance and plans to take a look at Chamberlain for one inning of relief in Sunday's regular-season finale against the Rays, in what could be an audition for a playoff roster spot.

"I think it can give you a better idea of what you're going to get," Girardi said. "Will it be necessarily what you're going to get during a series? It may not tell you that. But I think it will give you a better idea."

The subject of so much debate over the past three seasons, the 24-year-old Chamberlain has recently been largely ineffective as a starting pitcher. He is 1-4 with a 7.75 ERA in his past 10 outings, with many of them having been restricted to fewer than five innings.

Chamberlain showed signs of advancing with a win on Sept. 25 against Boston, his first in nearly two months, but regressed in a no-decision against the Royals on Wednesday. In discussions with general manager Brian Cashman and team trainers, Girardi said he was assured Chamberlain could physically handle a relief appearance.

"It's not something new, so I have a plan on what I'm going to do to get ready, because I've done it before," Chamberlain said. "That's the advantage that I have. It's just coming to the ballpark and having the idea that you're probably going to pitch in the game."

The argument surrounding Chamberlain's place in the rotation or the bullpen is one that has followed his entire Yankees career, but New York had steadfastly kept to its plan of using Chamberlain only as a starter in 2009, even revising the "Joba Rules" to limit his innings total as he approached the finish line.

Chamberlain arrived in the big leagues as a dominant reliever in 2007, converted from a Minor League starter and compiling a 0.38 ERA in 19 regular-season appearances before melting down in the infamous "Midge game" in Game 2 of the American League Division Series against the Indians.

Chamberlain made 12 starts and 30 relief appearances in 2008, combining to go 4-3 with a 2.60 ERA, and had prepared as a starting pitcher from the first day of Spring Training this year. The Yankees scaled back his innings in September to keep his innings limit, believed to be approximately 160, in check.

"I've done a lot of things here, and I'm fortunate that I've been able to do it," Chamberlain said. "Now I can be in any situation and feel comfortable. I think that's the advantage that I have. I know what I'm going to do."

His recent track record has made it a near-lock that the Yankees will select the longer ALDS schedule, providing an off-day that will keep Chamberlain from needing to start. Girardi said that Chamberlain could be used as either a long reliever or for a shorter burst in the playoffs.

"We might use him for a couple of hitters tomorrow just to see how he reacts," Girardi said. "He feels good right now. We'll see how he feels tomorrow. He's in that mix and that's something that we're going to take a look at."

Girardi said that he would be paying attention to how quickly Chamberlain warms up, as well as the results of the short stint and his approach on the mound.

"Everything that you would want to know if we were going to bring him in for an inning, what he would do," Girardi said.

The Yankees are leaning toward taking only 10 pitchers for the first round, but have not officially announced that decision. Should they advance to the second round, Chamberlain could be reinserted as the Yankees' fourth starter behind CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte.

Chamberlain said that he was not looking at Sunday's relief appearance as though he is pitching for a job.

"Every day you come out here, you've got to prove yourself," Chamberlain said. "There's always someone waiting to take your job and that's the greatest thing about this team. We push each other so much. I'm excited to get the ball in that situation and we'll go from there."

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

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