Throughout Joba Chamberlain’s late season struggles last year many fans and pundits insisted that it was because the Yankees were messing with him too much and that he was not pitching ‘where he belonged’ in the bullpen.

Well, the Yankees haven’t been messing with him and he’s been in the bullpen, even further, he’s one of the few who have had a consistent role as the eighth inning guy.

Through all of this Joba has been as inconsistent as ever. Last night he was even hitting 97 MPH, so you know it’s not the velocity that’s the problem. What’s the problem then? It’s probably that he’s a young pitcher, he’s still just 24 after all, still learning how to get Major League hitters out.

That’s the problem, as part of his development he’s going to lay eggs every once and a while because not every young pitcher is Tim Lincecum. And Joba has laid quite a few eggs recently. It’s the end of May and his ERA is an unsightly 5.82 and more recently it has been 18.00 with a blown save and two loses over his last five appearances.

This brings us to the main question, what should the Yankees do with Joba Chamberlain? It is certainly not time yet to give up on him, but it seems hard to justify just keeping him in that eighth inning role right now. The problem is that the bullpen has been failing the Yankees at every opportunity lately and there is no one pitcher that seems ready to step into that role especially with David Robertson’s health questionable.

Ideally the Yankees might send a struggling 24-year-old back to the minors to work through his problems, regain some confidence, and return better than ever, but again the bullpen has been in rough shape and removing a healthy pitcher might not be the best choice.

Part of me can’t help but wonder if he’s actually supposed to a reliever. Before 2007 Joba never pitched out of the pen at any level and he was never a two-pitch pitcher. Part of the problem could be that he is used to using his full arsenal relying on his curveball and changeup when he gets into trouble, but as a reliever he has largely abandoned those pitches. So when his slider isn’t biting, and it hasn’t been lately, he’s left to die by that fastball.

This is something that I’d like to see the Yankees go back to especially considering the questions surrounding Javier Vazquez. Maybe the best thing for both Joba and the team is that they send him back down to the minors, as a starter. That way instead of being able to work on his game an inning at a time he can really get some time as a starter to work through his issues. It would also be the best way for him to work on his pitches so that when his slider isn’t working he has other options.

If the Yankees don’t do that their next best option is probably just to use him in lower leverage situations until his confidence and the team’s confidence in him is returned. I just wonder if that’s actually going to make him a better pitcher or not.

I’m going to say it though, maybe where Joba “belongs” is back in the minors continuing his development as a starter. If he were a minor league starter at least he would have more value to the Yankees as trade bait than as a mediocre major league reliever.

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