Several teams around baseball attempted to pry away bullpen help from opposing teams at the July 31 trade deadline. The Yankees added a star caliber reliever without having to part with any cash or any prospects.
Joba Chamberlain made his first appearance Wednesday in nearly 14 months when he returned from Tommy John surgery (June 2011) and an ugly ankle injury sustained in spring training while jumping on trampolines with his young son in Tampa.
Chamberlain allowed two runs in 1 2/3 innings in the Yankees’ 12-3 victory, including a home run to the first batter he faced, but the importance of his results will be a story for another day.
“It was something I can’t forget, the same as the first time I walked into old Yankee Stadium and just to know the feelings I got to know I am back out there to help this team,” Chamberlain said.
“It was something I’ll remember for the rest of my life. Obviously not the results you want, but we got the win and it was nice to get the first one out of the way and build from there.”
Chamberlain burst onto the Bronx scene in 2007 as a lights-out setup man before his career arc derailed as the Yankees spent the next few seasons shuttling him between the rotation and the bullpen to curb his innings total.
But add his mid-90s fastball and ability to record outs against right-handed and left-handed bats makes Chamberlain a strong complement to Rafael Soriano, David Robertson and left-handed specialist Boone Logan in a bullpen that is likely to be without closer Mariano Rivera (knee surgery) for the rest of this season.
“I think it’s huge, man,” outfielder Nick Swisher said. “With the guys we already had in the bullpen, this just kind of solidifies it. … I don’t know what (Joe Girardi’s) plan is, but we have some great guys at the back of the bullpen, and any time you can bring in a guy who throws flames like Joba, you’re excited to have him back.”
Chamberlain hadn’t pitched for the Yankees since June 5, 2011, when he suffered a torn medial collateral ligament in his right elbow.
He might have been back about two months earlier from Tommy John surgery, but the 26-year-old dislocated his right ankle in the trampoline accident on March 22.
“I never counted him out,” Girardi said. “I know some people thought he wouldn’t pitch again (this year). I did. I really believed at some point he was going to be able to pitch for us this year.
“Coming back from two serious injuries, there’s probably a lot of emotions that went into (Wednesday’s outing). I was glad he wasn’t over-pumped up. That was my biggest concern. … I think you’ll see him continue to improve as time goes on.”
Chamberlain, 26, originally was slated to make a final minor-league rehab appearance Tuesday for Double-A Trenton, but he was summoned back to the Bronx instead and was activated from the 60-day disabled list because the Yankees traded reliever Chad Qualls to Pittsburgh for third baseman Casey McGehee.
“It was a roller-coaster of emotions in the last 24 hours, everything that’s happened and what’s gone on, and then get the uniform on and get out there and pitch and get the first one out of the way,” Chamerbalin said. “There’s work to do. (I) have to continue to work.”