27 Outs Baseball Network

Joba Chamberlain Finds Home With Cleveland Indians

On Tuesday the Cleveland Indians signed pitcher Joba Chamberlain to a Minor League contract with an invitation to spring training. Of course, fans remember Joba’s best days starting out as a very talented and promising reliever with the New York Yankees in 2007.

He pitched 19 games down the stretch that season and only allowed one earned run—a home run—and only 12 hits in 24.0 innings of work.

His signing with the Cleveland Indians clearly brings to mind the midges of 2007: When taking the mound for New York in the postseason of that year, the infamous little insects known around parts of the Great Lakes that come out during the fall, irritated Joba to no end.

Chamberlain was also solid as a reliever in 2008 (1-2, 2.31 ERA), though he only pitched 30 games out of the bullpen, and 12 as a starter (3-1, 2.76 ERA). He was a full-time starter in 2009 (9-6, 4.78 ERA in 31 starts).

Joba was relegated to the bullpen for 2010 and beyond.

His career in the big leagues began to tumble, in part to injuries, and he appeared to battle the adjustments needed in preparing for relieving versus starting. Though this may or may not have been the actual reason for his struggles, I personally always thought the Yankees should have decided what role Chamberlain would fulfill and stick with it.

His velocity and emergence as a top setup man upon initially breaking onto the Major League scene displayed a strength for the Yankees’ bullpen; however, the Yankees were still keen on using him out of the rotation going forward.

While his call-up to the majors in 2007 was to help the team, they also wanted to protect his arm by instituting an innings limits, infamously known as ‘Joba Rules.’

Though it’s not uncommon for pitchers to be broken into the majors slowly—the Tampa Bay Rays used David Price out of the bullpen in 2008—the Yankees never seemed settled on which role they intended to utilize Joba.

He joined the Detroit Tigers for 2014 and seemed to regain his groove, pitching 69 games in relief and accruing a 2-5 record to go with a 3.57 ERA in 63.0 innings. He then went on to throw just 27.2 innings between the Tigers and Kansas City Royals in 2015.

He also spent portions of 2015 in the Minor Leagues, primarily brief stints with the Buffalo Bisons and the Omaha Storm Chasers, the Triple-A affiliates of the Toronto Blue Jays and Kansas City Royals respectively. In the minors he was 1-1 with a 9.75 ERA in 15 games, with two saves in four opportunities.

Earlier this past season, our own Victor Barbosa had this quote from Chamberlain: “Obviously (I’ll) just try to pitch in any situation, get the ball and get going. Winning is what we need to do and (I want) just to go out there and bring a veteran presence and hopefully I can learn something from these guys and they can learn something from me.”

This is the mindset that the Indians are looking for out of Chamberlain, and it speaks of the professionalism and maturity that he possesses as a veteran that can help him.

Joba is 25-21 with a career 3.87 ERA. In 21 career postseason games spanning five seasons, he is 1-0 with two blown saves, four holds, and a 5.06 ERA.

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