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The Joba-Hughes Role Reversal

By Dustin Racioppi
7/29/ 09

This is not the way I thought things would shake out for the second half of the season, with Joba Chamberlain starting every fifth day and Phil Hughes coming out of the bullpen, but I'll take it. 

Both these young Yankees have something to prove, and they are, no matter what role they're in.

In his last 21 2/3 innings, or his three starts since the break, Joba has struck out 20 and let up only two runs. On Wednesday night, he shut down the Tampa Bay offense, allowing only 3 hits and pitching eight shutout innings. It wasn't that long ago — say, his three starts before the All-Star break — Joba couldn't make it past the fifth inning. In those starts, Joba was a mess. He was throwing way too many pitches per batter, his command was on vacation and the velocity on his fastball was way down. Now all of a sudden, Joba is living up to his and the fans' expectations while also hushing the ones who have advocated for him to be in the bullpen. I was one of them (still am) and so was Jorge Posada. But after his last start, Jorge said, "He's changed my mind."

Meanwhile, former starter and flamethrower Phil Hughes has taken over the role Joba dominated two years ago. Since moving to the bullpen, Hughes has showed you what he couldn't consistently show as a starter — aggression, swagger and a fastball clocking at 96-97 mph. Hughes hasn't given up a run in 22 innings. He even got his first Major League save the other night. 

Both he and Joba not only look dominant, but they are showing that all the hype they brought with them to the Major Leagues is justified. 

The only thing that worries me at this point is the fact that Joba is on an innings limit for the season. Supposedly its about 150 to 160. He's at 102 as of Wednesday. That means we won't be seeing him in September. I don't know what the front office plans to do, but even if a trade is made for a fifth starter (Sergio Mitre cannot be the answer now that Wang is out for the season), there's still a hole if the Yanks stick to that innings count. I think we'll see Joba back in the bullpen by the end of the season. Maybe he'll be there with Phil Hughes, maybe not. But as the two have proven, it doesn't seem to matter what point they pitch in the game, they both have the stuff to shut the lights out on the opposition. 



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