Joba Chamberlain answered Phil Hughes’ gem with a virtuoso performance of his own, going 7 innings and allowing just one run on 3 hits and 3 walks while striking out 6. His last four innings in particular looked a lot like what we had come to expect from Joba in the past. There were two really important developments that were evident in this performance.
1) The curveball that Joba threw to strike out Miguel Cabrera with the bases full and two outs in the third should preclude any further talk of sending him to the bullpen. When you have a pitcher whose third-best pitch can strike out one of the best hitters in baseball in a high pressure spot, you do not relegate him to pitching one inning at a time. You put him in the rotation and wait for him to become an ace. Joba has three above average major league pitches and a changeup that is getting to that point. If he stays healthy, he is going to be an ace.
2) Joba’s velocity was back up, as he raised his average fastball speed about half a MPH to 92.76 and hit 96 a few times. he also seemed to loosen up as the game proceeded, throwing harder and looking looser after the Cabrera at-bat. It seems that the brouhaha over his mechanics and velocity may have just been irrational panic over a young pitcher just building arm strength at the start of a season. We have never seen Joba as a starter to begin a season, and he just may be a pitcher who takes a few starts to build velocity.
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