Chamberlain ready to fight for rotation spot
Last Updated: 8:01 PM, January 31, 2010
Posted: 2:59 AM, January 31, 2010
Joba Chamberlain’s eyes are set squarely on the fifth spot in the Yankees’ rotation.
The right-handed pitcher told The Post last night that he will arrive in Tampa next week — well before pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report for spring training — with the idea he’s a starting pitcher for 2010. Team brass has told him to have that mindset.
But Chamberlain also said he isn’t taking anything for granted knowing that Phil Hughes and Alfredo Aceves, among others, are chasing the same carrot.
“I’m going to go in and understand a lot of guys are fighting for that spot,” Chamberlain said after an autograph signing in New Rochelle in conjunction with Steiner Sports. “Nothing is guaranteed.”
Hughes is Chamberlain’s primary competition for the final spot in the Yankees’ rotation behind CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Andy Pettitte and Javier Vazquez.
Hughes pitched effectively from the bullpen last year, mostly in a setup role for Mariano Rivera, and Chamberlain had a shaky season as a starter, finishing 9-6 with a 4.75 ERA as he faced an innings limit toward the end of the season. Chamberlain spent the postseason in the bullpen, leading to speculation he and Hughes, who struggled most notably in the ALCS and World Series, might trade places in 2010. That could still happen, as Hughes is expected to receive a long look for the rotation.
Chamberlain said he’s most excited about the addition of Vazquez, whom the Yankees obtained last month in a trade with the Braves that included Melky Cabrera.
Vazquez pitched for the Yankees in 2004 and struggled, leading to his departure after surrendering a grand slam to Boston’s Johnny Damon in Game 7 of the ALCS.
“I think Javier Vazquez is excited to come back here and has something to prove,” Chamberlain said.
Even in the dead of winter, the Yankees are the biggest show around.
Alex Rodriguez, Rivera, Pettitte, Burnett, Chamberlain and Nick Swisher were among the players who entertained nearly 3,000 fans at yesterday’s autograph signing.
With pitchers and catchers less than three weeks away from reporting to camp, several Yankees were still basking in the glory of last year’s world championship, but also ready to start discussing 2010.
For several of the players yesterday was the first time seeing each other since November’s tickertape parade along Broadway. Rodriguez had a giant bear hug for his friend Rivera.
“What a great team and great accomplishment,” Rivera said. “We’re like a family. It was great seeing everyone. It was like a family reunion. I like the team this coming year.”
Chamberlain said he is done celebrating last season’s accomplishments.
“We understand what we did last year, but this is a New Year,” Chamberlain said. “We’re the 2009 world champions, but it doesn’t mean anything now that it’s 2010.”