When Joba Chamberlain went down with his shoulder injury, all hopes of him reaching the predetermined innings limit went down with him. Once he returned from the injury, it was decided that it didn't make sense to rebuild his innings to get him to start again, and he was placed back into the bullpen. Right now, Chamberlain is at 98.2 innings on the season with 6 games left. If he played in every game, which he won't, that would put him at 104.2 innings on the season, which would project him towards 134.2 innings for next season. Too few for a starter, yet slightly more than a reliever. Thus begins the never ending debate of whether the Yankees keep Joba as a starter or as a reliever. Now, I don't think anyone would disagree that a healthy Joba as a starter would be much better than a healthy Joba as a reliever. However, Joba has had a history of injury. What? You say. Yes, Joba fell to us in the sandwich pick of the draft because of a history of injuries in his college days. If I'm not mistaken, the sandwich pick would mean that 30 teams, including the Yankees, passed on him the first time through. He was still drafted very high, but there's a reason he fell to us then and didn't get picked up earlier. Posada argued last week that Joba can't stay healthy as a starter, and thus is better off in the bullpen, and there certainly is an argument to be made about having the next Mariano in the making. Also, the Yankees middle relief has been pretty shaky over the last few years, and having a guy like Chamberlain certainly helps this. But in comes Phil Coke.
Phil Coke has pitched brilliantly out of relief since his call up. He's pitched 11.1 scoreless innings in the majors with 9 strikeouts and 2 walks. Not bad at all. Some would say that this makes the 8th inning role a little more interesting since Coke has been absolutely dominant. However, if Kennedy and Hughes taught us anything last year it was to not count your pitchers 'till they've sorted out their assorted night vision, broken rib, and general failure issues. The point is Coke could end up not being the pitcher we hoped he'd be. Honestly, for a guy who started the season in Double A as a starter, and was close to being demoted to Tampa as Trenton beat writer Mike Ashmore shared with us in this Exclusive Respect Jeter's Gangster Interview conducted in April, its a little risky to turn the 8th inning over to him. But then the same reliever vs. starter argument holds true for Coke. If he's so good as a reliever, could he take this magic into the rotation? He was after all brought up as a starter until he was moved to triple A. He made 20 starts at Trenton and relieved 3 games there, but once he moved to Scranton he only made one more start, and relieved the remaining 13 games he played in.
So the question remains, do you see what Joba and Coke can do as starters, or do you keep them in the bullpen? Would you move one and not the other? Sound off in the comments section!