Opinions surrounding Joba's future differ

Opinions surrounding Joba's future differ

TAMPA, Fla. -- Yankees general manager Brian Cashman pegs Joba Chamberlain as a starting pitcher who happens to be working out of the bullpen. But some members of the organization are free to own -- and voice -- their differing opinions.

Billy Eppler, the Yankees' director of professional scouting, created a minor stir Saturday, when he appeared on WFAN radio in New York and said that he does not foresee a situation in which Chamberlain would start in 2010.

During the interview with host Evan Roberts, Eppler also said that he would not consider it likely that Chamberlain could compete for a rotation spot in 2011, either. Cashman said that no such decision regarding Chamberlain's future has been made.

"Typically, when that stuff comes my way, my answer is basically: 'You know what, guys? I'm not going to deal with the hypothetical,'" Cashman said. "He's a starter that right now, the way this camp completed, his role on the club would be to help us out of the 'pen.

"What 2011 is going to be like, or 2012, or 2013, it's hard to fast-forward to it. ... If I'm asked the question, I'm not getting to '11. I'm dealing with '10. Is it possible he can be in the rotation? I'd say, 'It's all possible.' He's a starter that's right now needed out of the 'pen."

Chamberlain entered camp in competition for the rotation, but manager Joe Girardi announced Thursday that Phil Hughes had outpitched him in the derby. Chamberlain is thus being transitioned to the bullpen, making his first relief appearance of the spring Saturday and recording a save against the Tigers.

The Yankees have left the door open for Chamberlain to start at some point this season, especially in the case of injuries, but Eppler told WFAN that he feels it is unlikely.

"In the here and now, I don't foresee any situation," Eppler said. "Obviously, that's for Brian and Joe, but I don't think they foresee a situation where he would go into the rotation. He is going to be a reliever, and obviously we've seen what he's been able to do in that role. He's been able to be very dominant in that role. I don't foresee a situation where he would be starting at all."

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Eppler was then asked if the question of Chamberlain as a starter could come back to life in 2011, with the right-hander competing for a rotation spot. He responded, "I wouldn't consider that likely, no."

Chamberlain said that his focus is on pitching out of the bullpen, and that he has not spoken to Eppler about the comments. In fact, Chamberlain was not aware of the interview until he arrived at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Sunday morning.

"No matter who you are or what you are, you're going to have your opinion on what you think is best," Chamberlain said. "[Starting is] what I've trained for. That's how I've trained, but now I can't look at it that way. It's unfair to my team and unfair to myself to try and look at myself that way: 'OK, I'm still a starter, but now I'm down in the bullpen.' That's not doing my team the justice that they deserve to win."

The debates regarding Chamberlain rage much more furiously outside the organization than in the Yankees' internal meetings, Cashman said, adding that no ultimate decision has been made on Chamberlain's future.

"We haven't had any team meeting and said, 'He's a reliever for the rest of his life,'" Cashman said. "We haven't done that. That's never been discussed."

In fact, Cashman said that the club's meeting to decide the fifth starter was dominated more by discussion concerning how to break the news to Chamberlain, Alfredo Aceves and Sergio Mitre.

Cashman said that Eppler was not speaking for the organization as a whole, but thought that the blip was an indication of the Yankees' "healthy dialogue going on behind the scenes."

He said that Eppler will remain available for interviews in the future.

"Billy's good," Cashman said. "He's been an asset and he's going to continue to be an asset. This is also a good growth spurt. He's going to be something special in this game. I'm glad that [reporters] have access to him, giving opinions.

"Although at times I might disagree with his opinion, he makes us better. I want him to be out there talking to you guys as much as he can. I don't want him shying away from his opinion."

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