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Where is Joba's fastball?

By Dustin Racioppi

According to the New York Post — and the bats of Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley — Joba Chamberlain's fastball is AWOL. Utley and Rollins both tagged Joba for home runs on Thursday. Back-to-back home runs, no less. Not a good sign this far into Spring Training, and he won't get work again until the sixth game of the season. A Yankee scout was quoted in the Post's story as saying, "I didn't see anything all that good. The homers were on 90 mph fastballs." That's not a good sign, either. 

Considering Joba couldn't stay healthy in the starter role last year, which was only part of the year, it's hard to continue arguing that he belongs in the No. 5 slot in the starting rotation. The gun is used to clocking his fastball somewhere around 97-98 mph. Thursday he topped out at 94. I hope that in March he's not already gassed. 

There's no use in belaboring the starter/reliever debate anymore. The Yankee brass is committed to throwing him out there every fifth day. But on this track, Joba may be the one deciding where his future on the mound is. I wouldn't be surprised to see him back in the bullpen at some point this season. Don't forget he's not totally unleashed this year when it comes to innings pitched, either. 

All it will take is a few outings of Joba throwing up four solid innings and then getting clobbered in the fifth or sixth for a few runs. Then maybe Hank and Hal, Brian and Joe will see that his potential is best used in getting the ball to Mariano, who, by the way, has shown inhuman skill so far this spring. 

Let's hope that for Mariano it's business as usual. For Joba, he better find that heater, because those other pitches in the arsenal won't be a bit of good if he can't dial it up. 

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