"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Now It’s On

An ugly spring debut from Damaso Marte helped the Phillies beat the Yankees 6-2 in Clearwater, but the story of the game was a strong four-inning appearance from Joba Chamberlain, who, having heard the gun, is finally keeping stride with Phil Hughes in the race for the final spot in the Opening Day rotation.


L – Brett Gardner (CF)
L – Nick Johnson (DH)
S – Mark Teixeira (1B)
R – Alex Rodriguez (3B)
R – Marcus Thames (LF)
S – Randy Winn (RF)
R – Francisco Cervelli (C)
S – Ramiro Peña (SS)
R – Kevin Russo (2B)

Subs: Juan Miranda (1B), Reegie Corona (2B), Eduardo Nuñez (SS), Jorge Vazquez (3B), Mike Rivera (C), David Winfree (RF), Reid Gorecki (CF), Jamie Hoffmann (LF), Jon Weber (DH)

Pitchers (IP): Andy Pettitte (4), Damaso Marte (four batters), Amaury Sanit (1), Joba Chamberlain (4)

Big Hits: Francisco Cervelli went 3-for-3 with an RBI double and is hitting .583 on the month. Brett Gardner went 2-for-3 with a triple courtesy of a missed diving catch by Shane Victorino in center. Gardner also stole his first base of the spring.

Who Pitched Well: In his first actual game action (he previously threw two simulated games, one to avoid travel, the other due to rain), Andy Pettitte struck out four in four innings against just one walk. He did allow a pair of runs on five hits, but threw just 55 pitches. Amaury Sanit retired all three men he faced, striking out two. He hasn’t issued a walk or allowed a run in 3 2/3 innings this spring.

Most importantly, Joba Chamberlain answered the bell with four strong innings (including an unofficial bottom of the ninth with the home-team Phillies in the lead). He did allow a run, but on a well-placed bloop double over Kevin Russo’s head and a single. He also struck out five against just one walk after getting just two Ks against six walks in his previous 3 2/3 innings. Like Hughes on Tuesday, he did it over the game’s final four innings, but he faced a better group of hitters than Hughes did against a split-squad Astros road team. Having needed just 47 pitches to get through those four frames, Joba threw about 15 more in the bullpen. During the game, Chamberlain was not only efficient but was working quickly, showing the aggressive approach that so often seemed missing last year but showed its head in his three strong starts after the All-Star break. That is a very good indicator, as is the fact that his slider had that nasty break to it as seen in the highlight reel found here. Both of those things suggest that this fifth-starter battle could live up to its billing after all.

Who Didn’t: In his first spring appearance, Damaso Marte faced four batters without getting an out. Switch-hitters Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino singled. Righty Jayson Werth hit a three-run home run. Lefty Ryan Howard then singled off Marte, bouncing him from the game.

Ouchies: Howard’s liner hit Damaso Marte in the lower back and left a bruise. Marte was doing his exercises before the game was over and said he was fine after, but the Yankees might push back his next appearance to be on the safe side.

Other: Having finally faced major league batters, Andy Pettitte may have to start a minor league game his next time out so that Chamberlain can get his full pitch load in the major league game.

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1 a.O   ~  Mar 18, 2010 12:18 am

I'm not so sure it is a good sign that Joba finally pitched well. Why does he always need a "kick in the pants," as he put it, to pitch with purpose? Why doesn't it ever seem to last more than a few games? And why does he have a "low motivation" gear at all? He just seems more and more like he is lacking something mental that is very important for a consistent, big-league career. Seems like the only time he consistently turns it on is when he knows he has a certain number of outs to get. Bullpen-bound, I hope.

And don't look now, but Randy Winn has his avj up to .167. Really making a run for Gardy's spot. LOL.

2 Eddie Lee Whitson KO   ~  Mar 18, 2010 12:30 am

Don't know that this one was a kick in the butt as much as getting in tune (though I understand the point, esp from last year). Was great to see him and pettite out there getting good tilt on their breaking pitches.

I just cant see the yanks getting through the season with 5 starters, prob closer to 8-9, factoring in potential injuries - we got pretty lucky last year...this whole battle for the 5th spot is a little contrived to me, but if it gets the best out of the guys, so be it.

3 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Mar 18, 2010 12:39 am

[2] I'm still optimistic about Joba, but this is from the linked article:

"I give [Girardi] a little bit of the credit, because sometimes you need a little bit of a kick in the rear," Chamberlain said.

4 thelarmis   ~  Mar 18, 2010 2:33 am

[3] i enjoyed your interview over at baseball analysts. i don't know what twitter is (and can't be bothered...!), so i'm glad you mentioned it in the little box on the left. i always look for your 'latest tweet'.

my buddy did some work on my new laptop last night and now i don't get the top of this page - or lohud - for some very strange reason. i'll ask him tomorrow and maybe get it fixed saturday...

hey mattapt - sir pontoon is on the long island ducks. he's comin' to getchya! ; )

5 williamnyy23   ~  Mar 18, 2010 9:25 am

[1] I agree with a lot of your thoughts. Although I am not ready to consign him to the bullpen just yet, I too don't understand why Joba constantly needs an attitude adjustment. The fact that he needed a kick in the pants more than outweighs his performance against the Phillies in the second half of a spring training game. He should dominate in that setting, but shouldn’t need a kick in the pants to do so.

6 wsporter   ~  Mar 18, 2010 9:41 am

It was probably much easier and smarter for Joba to diplomatically say that "it's good to get a kick in the pants every now and then" than to face the tabloid firestorm that a comment like "no comment" or "shut the F' up Joe" would engender. I don't have a problem with Joba taking the public "scolding" he got from Joe G in what appears to be a very gracious way; it might actually show a new found level of maturity on his part that would be quite welcome. Now having written that, if it turns out that he requires weekly or monthly kicks in the rear in order to help him regain lost focus that might be a something of a different story.

7 ms october   ~  Mar 18, 2010 9:44 am

unfortunately some people need to have someone press them a bit. curt schilling comes to mind. he was a fat fuck that wasn't really living up to his potential for many years until the infamous clemens pep talk.

i find it interesting that girardi noted joba worked quickly and attacked the zone. this seems to be a big key to a successful approach for him. he also was given free reign to just pitch rather than work on things which he was told to do in the previous game. joba has not pitched *that much* in his life. i have said this before but i would bet good money that he got coached very little as a fat kid. he is still learning about pitching as a craft and how to approach his job professionally.

8 ms october   ~  Mar 18, 2010 9:45 am

[6] good point. i agree with this notion too.

9 The Hawk   ~  Mar 18, 2010 10:11 am

Joba's good out of the bullpen and not good as a starter. He can get riled up and intense for an inning otherwise he's a muddled mess. That said I hope they make him a starter and let this season really be make or break. Not to say he needs to go 7+ innings every game and post an ERA under 3, but substantial improvement needs to happen.

10 a.O   ~  Mar 18, 2010 10:11 am

I don't mean to get too down on Joba - I still have high hopes too. The two modes of pitching just makes me wonder what we've got here, or whether he is ready. But fortunately, we will soon see.

11 williamnyy23   ~  Mar 18, 2010 10:14 am

[6] Could be...but I don't think Girardi is the kind of guy who say Joba needed a kick in the pants if, well, he didn't need a kick in the pants.

[7] When Joba works quickly and is aggressive, he usually does much better, which begs the question, why doesn't he do it more? I absolutely agree that Joba is still learning, but the problem I have had with him he is seems too stubborn to do so. Whether it's battling with his catcher or giving interviews straight out of the denial handbook, he often seems as if he is satisfied with where he is as a pitcher.

12 The Hawk   ~  Mar 18, 2010 10:19 am

[11] I think those things come from a general stupidity (not to put too fine a point on it). He thinks there's a way to go about doing things but it's a very superficial take. I don't get the impression that he really understands what he's talking about or what he's doing, in general. It doesn't give me a lot of hope but we'll see, hopefully soon. I mean you don't need to be a genius to be great but being dumb can inhibit (cf Robbie Cano, don't ya don't know???)

13 williamnyy23   ~  Mar 18, 2010 10:26 am

[12] I don't agree that Joba is stupid, and definitely don't believe Cano is either. Instead, I think Joba suffers from a certain level of arrogance stemming from his early success. As for Cano, the stigmas attached to him to continue to amaze me. He has only established himself as one of the best 2B in the game, and yet it seems as if many regard him as a classic underachiever.

14 The Hawk   ~  Mar 18, 2010 10:30 am

[13] Well Joba could be both arrogant and stupid, can't he? In fact the two might sometimes go hand in hand. If he's ever said anything the least bit insightful, it's news to me.

As for Cano, he can be one of the best 2B in the game and still an underachiever. Much has been made about his bad hitting with men on base; if he can fix that I'll take it all back.

15 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Mar 18, 2010 11:05 am

[13] I agree completely with that. I actually think Cano is an overachiever because if you look at his minor league record, he did nothing to suggest he would be an elite hitter in the majors.

16 monkeypants   ~  Mar 18, 2010 11:07 am

I could give a rats ass if Joba needs a pep talk or kick in the pants, so long as the results are there. The job of the coaching staff is to coax the most out of the talent they are given. That includes constructing the rotation, righting out the lineup, handling the press, handling the owner, applying the appropriate level of discipline (is this a "players' coach" team or a team in need of a sterner hand), psychology, cajoling, love, attention, voodoo...whatever works.

[7] he was a fat fuck that wasn’t really living up to his potential for many years until the infamous clemens pep talk.

Yep. But once Clemens gave him a dose of pep...talk...he suddenly started pitching at a higher level. That crafty veteran Clemens with his pep...talk. ; )

17 monkeypants   ~  Mar 18, 2010 11:09 am

[13][14][15] In the end, who cares if Cano is an overachiever or underachiever (indeed, it is awfully hard to prove that one way or another)? All we should care about is what he actually achieves.

18 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Mar 18, 2010 11:14 am

[17] I agree with that, too! Though I will say that my low expectations have made what he has achieved already feel like a great deal, whereas some might have expected more and are still waiting for him to live up to their expectations.

19 wsporter   ~  Mar 18, 2010 11:43 am

[11} ". . . I don’t think Girardi is the kind of guy who say Joba needed a kick in the pants if, well, he didn’t need a kick in the pants"

Neither do I.

20 a.O   ~  Mar 18, 2010 12:01 pm

[16] Perhaps you missed this, but the lack of consistent results is the only reason we are having this discussion.

21 51cq24   ~  Mar 18, 2010 12:14 pm

[20] the inconsistency is only from last year. give him a chance.

22 williamnyy23   ~  Mar 18, 2010 12:30 pm

[16] I do care if he needs a pep talk because the failure to get one could lead to a sub par performance. It's still early in his career, but at some point Joba needs to be more focused if he is going to be a successful starter.

23 monkeypants   ~  Mar 18, 2010 1:32 pm

[22] well yes, sure, it would be great if all players were equally self-motivated, and equally focused all the time, and perfectly consistent [21], etc. But I tend to assume that this is an unrealistic expectation. I assume that, in fact, some players have certain weaknesses that are hardwired (more or less), so rather than dwell on the weaknesses (and assume that they are the product of a player's failing in terms of preparation, etc) we should look at the overall package. Similarly, I assume that players must be coaxed and motivated in varying degrees and by various methods. That's the job of the coaching staff. If Joba doesn't get his pep talk in the future, that's on the coaches, especially if his "problem" of motivation is known.

So yes, I would prefer that Joba (or Cano, or any other player who tends to find himself in the cross-hairs) didn't *need* greater motivation. But if they do---and I'm sure other players *need* to be coaxed or coddled, reassured, urged, or berated in ways that we will never hear about---so be it. Do your job, Girardi, and get the most out of your players.

24 williamnyy23   ~  Mar 18, 2010 1:39 pm

[23] It's true that not all players are completely self motivating, but I'd guess that most ace starters don't need regular pep talks. If that's true, then maybe Joba's lack of focus means we are looking at a lower level starter, in which case, the bullpen looks more suitable for him. Girardi's job is to get the most out of his players, but if Joba really lacks focus, then perhaps sending him to the pen is the best way to do that.

25 The Hawk   ~  Mar 18, 2010 1:42 pm

[17] To take your question literally: I care.

26 Yankster   ~  Mar 18, 2010 1:44 pm

Arod had (has?) his pre-game psyche talk with his motivational therapist before almost every game and he gets himself into that minotaur mode. Clemens had his own personal trainer in the clubhouse to motivate him (and to apply burning lineament to his crouch between innings - I'm not making this up). And I, for one, could definitely use a pep talk once in a while to up my game at work.

This idea that because Joba isn't a self-contained solution to his pitching slot is kind of ridiculous, in my opinion. The whole point of Torre was that he was able to handle big egos and smooth out the emotional side of players to let ability come through. I never thought that was completely useless - do you? I know Mariano seems wholly (pun intended) contained, but I think he gets a lot of spiritual support off the field which he uses to be stable on the field. Jeter's famously supportive parents probably talk to him constantly about his challenges - which is why we rarely see them. Joba is still a kid, he seems to have a not entirely ideal off-field support network, he seems to have some wicked wicked pitches, and he seems to need a little extra support from the coaches. What's the big deal?

27 The Hawk   ~  Mar 18, 2010 1:55 pm

[26] HA maybe that's the problem: Those wicked pitches seem to have disappeared. All the pep talks in the world won't raise the mph on your fastball. Or maybe they will, who knows.

28 Yankster   ~  Mar 18, 2010 2:01 pm

[27] He might not have had too many wicked games in his last few outings but the video of his slider from the other day is pretty good evidence that his arm has some truly wicked pitches in it. Whether he can string enough of those wicked pitches together to get an out, an inning, or a game, is the bigger question in my mind.

29 williamnyy23   ~  Mar 18, 2010 2:04 pm

[26] There's nothing wrong with Joba needing a little support, but this has kind of become a reoccuring theme with him. Now, I realize he hasn't exactly been handled in the best way, but I'd like to think he wouldn't a kick in the pants when he his battling for his dream job. Having said that, all that matters is how well he pitches. To this point, my bigger concern his arm strength. I could live with the kicks in the pants if he was throwing in the upper 90s.

30 The Hawk   ~  Mar 18, 2010 2:05 pm

[28] Yeah I guess it seems like they are wickeder more often when he's coming out the bullpen. Throwing 91, 92 fb, that slider isn't quite the same.

31 monkeypants   ~  Mar 18, 2010 2:23 pm

[26] Yes! Thank you.

[29] I could live with the kicks in the pants if he was throwing in the upper 90s.

Yes, again. That's my point. I don't care one whit HOW performance is cajoled out of Joba or any other player. thus, I don't care if (allegedly) needs a kick in the pants occasionally or repeatedly. That stuff is simply not my concern. Him performing or not performing well--the end results--are what I am interested in. Thus, like you (apparently), the issue is not whether he is or requires pants-kicking, but rather that the pants-kicking (or the lack of pants-kicking?) has not yielded the desired results to date.

Once again, we seem to agree.

32 williamnyy23   ~  Mar 18, 2010 2:28 pm

[31] We definitely agree about the end result, but I do have a concern about the possibility that Joba's best may need to be kicked out of him. If that is the long-term case, it opens up a lot of scenarios in which he will not peform up to par. It's kind of like having a car that needs super unleaded. It's not really a big deal when it's available, but the special need leaves up the chance that you may one day have to use regular and suffer the resulting decline in performance.

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