I hope those who envision Joba Chamberlain being the next Mariano Rivera aren’t rejoicing too much, despite the announcement that Joba will begin the season in the bullpen.
Joba must get to around 150 innings pitched this season. He can’t do that just being a starter, as he’d pitch far too many. If he stays in the bullpen, he’ll never pitch enough. So really the question wasn’t if Joba would pitch from the bullpen, it was when. It makes much more sense to start him in the bullpen; after all, as of right now the Yankees have 5 healthy and viable starting options. You’d rather have Chamberlain as an option later, than go through most of his innings in the beginning of the season.
That said, I think we’re going to see Joba used differently than your traditional reliever. There is a common sentiment that he will now supplant Kyle Farnsworth as the “8th inning guy.” But if Joba is used that way, I’d be very surprised. I think he will often pitch more than 1 inning and I don’t think you’ll see him make too many consecutive appearances. Remember, he is still being geared to be a starter. And also remember that Hughes has an innings cap as well (and even Kennedy to an extent). So it would make sense to pull Hughes some games after 4 or 5 innings and let Joba come in for 2 or 3. This is also why I think it would be pointless to keep Karstens in the bullpen.
The Yankees have said there will be no “Joba Rules,” but certainly Girardi has an idea about how Joba should be used. There simply won’t be set in stone rules – after all, this isn’t Joe Torre anymore, so the organization doesn’t have to worry about Joba receiving the Proctor treatment.