Rookie Hazing 2007

**Pictured Left to Right: Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy, Shelley Duncan, Phil Hughes**

Written By: Matt Vereb

During Spring Training, Yankee pitching coach, Dave Eiland, is holding an open competition for the 5th starter. Earlier, we covered that Eiland wants all five of his starters to be able to throw 200+ innings. Only Sabathia and Burnett posted 200+ IP(Pettitte had 194; Vazquez threw 249 for Atlanta). According to Eiland and Girardi, Joba Rules are over. So who is in the competition for the 5th starter spot?

The Contenders:

1. Joba Chamberlain

Joba struggled last year as a starter. In 32 starts, he was 9-6 posting a 4.75 ERA. Even though Joba struck out 133 batters in 157 innings, he walked 76. This translates into a staggering 2.4 walks/game.

During his short career, Joba has made 43 starts. He has a 12-7 lifetime record as a starter. Chamberlain has struck out 206 hitters in 221 innings. Joba has also walked 101 hitters. Joba’s strikeout to walk ratio is roughly 2:1, a figure he hopes to improve upon in 2010.

As a reliever, Joba has been dominant. In 60 innings, Joba has recorded 79 strikeouts and allowed only 20 walks and 39 hits. He has a 1.50 ERA as a reliever.

Since 2007, Joba has been the most priced Yankee rookie. Management has done everything in their power to protect his arm. We have all seen flashes of greatness from Joba. He just needs to get his walks under control.

2. Phil Hughes

Phil Hughes spent the majority of his 2009 season setting the table for Closer, Mariano Rivera. The 23-year-old righty recorded 65 strikeouts in 51 innings out of the bullpen. Opposing hitters only hit .172 off Hughes. Hughes 3.03 overall ERA was 2nd lowest on the team(Rivera).

Going into this season, Hughes has never been ‘stretched out’ meaning he is not physically ready to handle a 200 inning season. During his three year career in the Majors, Hughes has totaled only 192 innings.

As a starter in 2007 and 2008, Hughes made 21 starts. He was 5-7 with a 5 ERA in 106 innings. Hughes allowed 107 hits and 65 runs!

3. Others

Chad Gaudin, Sergio Mitre, and Alfredo Aceves figured to be in the mix for the 5th starter spot.

Chad Gaudin was acquired from the Padres at the trade deadline in 2009. Gaudin made 11 appareances(6 starts) for the Yankees in 2009. Gaudin was 2-0, posting a 3.43 ERA in 42 innings.

Mitre made 12 appearances for the Yankees in 2009. He was 3-3, posting a 6.75 ERA.

Aceves was a bullpen specialist for the Yankees last season. Aceves posted a 10-1 record with a 3.54 ERA.

All three of these pitchers figure to play long relief roles for the team this year. I can see Gaudin and Mitre pitching occasionally to rest starters or cover for injuries. Aceves is great in the bullpen.

Joba or Hughes??

If it were up to me, I would roll with Joba. Joba deserves another chance as a starter. He has shown flashes of dominance in the past. Hughes has great in the bullpen, but I expect him to be in the rotation in 2011. The 5th starter does not really make or break a team, but this is an important long-term decision for the Yankees. If Joba struggles, the team could go with another arm. But the set up worked last season. The offseason addition of pitcher Javy Vazquez further relieves the burden on Joba/Phil. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

Who do you want to see as the 5th starter?

Photo Credit: nj.com