Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A star is born?

Can Joba (say: jah bah) Chamberlain become the next Tom Henke/Todd Worrell/K-Rod/Bobby Jenks? The big kid also known as Joba the Hutt debuted last night in Toronto to pitch the final two innings of the Yanks' win over the BloJs. His line: 2IP, 1H, 0R, 2BB, 2K and he consistently hit 96+ on the radar.

Joba's rise has been ballistic: a questionable 1st round supplemental pick in the 2006 draft (41st overall) due to injury and weight issues, no one doubted his raw ability. But the key adjective was "raw" -- he had only pitched since his senior year of high school. And his numbers had dropped off from his sophomore to his junior years at Nebraska (from 10-2, 2.81 to 6-5, 3.93). The Yanks liked him and picked him as he fell out of the first round. Chamberlain recovered from his triceps tendonitis to dominate the Hawaii Fall League, where he had a ridiculous 46/3 K/BB ratio. His weight has dipped from nearly three bills (circa 290) to a listed weight of 230 that seems legit (as opposed to listing David Wells at 230).

The Yanks brought him along slowly this year, starting his minor league career in May with Tampa. He dominated high-A hitters (4-0, 2.03, 40 IP, 25 H, 51 K), did the same in AA ball with one bad outing (4-2, 3.35, 40.1 IP, 32 H, 66 K), and in his AAA debut he whiffed 10 in five innings without allowing a run. He seems mentally sharp and has a good attitude. The Yanks want him to be a starter (Verlander type stuff -- serious heat and a good slider) but are using him in relief because (a) there only equivalent arm available was Gagne; (b) they want to limit his innings.

And he's humble. Chamberlain is a member of the Winnebago Native American tribe and grew up on a reservation where his father, who lost an arm to injury, would play ball with a young Joba. He has stated a desire to show kids that they can leave the reservation and become a success in the wider world.

So welcome to the big time, Joba. Good luck.

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