Joba Changing It Up

It wouldn't seem likely that a pitcher who is 5-0 with a 1.76 ERA and 68 strikeouts in his first 51 professional innings would want to change much on the mound. But despite the fact he can light up the radar gun, and even though he reached the Double-A level after just seven starts in A-ball, Joba Chamberlain says developing his changeup is at the top of his priority list.

Signing too late last season to make his professional debut and missing the first month of the 2007 campaign with a hamstring injury, the Yankees still promoted Joba Chamberlain to Double-A after just seven starts for the Tampa Yankees.

"No," he said when asked if he expected to move this quickly. "It was a good surprise. If you had asked me last year if I would be in Double-A in less than ten starts in A-ball, I would have told you that you were crazy."

Chamberlain went a perfect 4-0 with a 2.03 ERA in the Florida State League and held opposing batters to a .181 batting average. And with a better than four to one strikeout-to-walk ratio, there was a lot to like about his numbers.

"It went well, I got to learn a lot," Chamberlain said of his time in Tampa. "Greg Pavlik [Tampa pitching coach] - it was a great honor to share thoughts with him and to learn a lot."

"It was a little frustrating at first, having the hamstring injury, but it was probably a blessing in disguise being able to handle it then, being able to watch guys like Ian [Kennedy] and [Daniel] McCutchen because we're all different pitchers. It was fun to watch and I learned a lot."

Known for his blazing fastball and solid breaking pitches, Chamberlain used his time in the Florida State League to continue working on the same areas he had worked on during his stint in the Hawaiian Winter League this past offseason.

"Just mechanics and the changeup obviously," he listed as the things he was working on in Tampa, "it has become a lot better. It's a pitch that I'm not hesitant to throw now. I just need to keep throwing it to get a better feel or it, just keep doing it. It's come a long, long way, a lot faster than I thought it would."

Chamberlain's pitching coach in Hawaii, Scott Aldred, is also his current pitching coach in Trenton. The former big league southpaw agrees with Chamberlain's assessment.

"It's much better," Aldred said of Chamberlain's changeup now compared to the one he was throwing in Hawaii, "though it's difficult to force him to throw his changeup up here when he doesn't even need it. He can pitch with his fastball and his breaking balls and dominate guys."

"Though he may at some point need it, he may not. He may be able to roll right into the big leagues and use three pitches to get outs, I don't know. But it sure would be nice to have that fourth pitch develop to some degree that he could at least throw it for strikes, if not, throw it when he's behind in the count somewhere down the road."

With Chamberlain sitting comfortably in the mid-90's with his fastball and consistently hitting the 97-98 MPH plateau with his heater in the fifth and sixth innings of Trenton's 7-4 loss to Reading on Sunday, perhaps Aldred is right.

And while he has the option of going to a plus slider and a quality curveball when the situation call for it, Chamberlain still wants a reliable changeup to add into the mix.

"I'm comfortable with everything at this point," Chamberlain said of his stuff, "which isn't the way it has been in the past. I'm finally comfortable shaking to a changeup in a hitter's count and having confidence to throw my pitch in a hitter's count, and vice-versa."

"I'm able to throw my offspeed for strikes too and definitely pitching off of my fastball has allowed me to throw my offspeed in hitter's counts."

He still continues to go to his great slider or curveball in the big spot, but he also realizes the further development of his changeup could be his final hurdle into becoming a complete pitcher and nearly big league ready.

"Just the changeup," he said what is his top priority in Double-A. "Big league hitters are going to recognize curveballs better than guys down here. They still have trouble picking up changeups."

"I think the more consistent I can get with the changeup - just to be able to throw it more - when you get to the big leagues, it's all about survival. I think the more consistent you can be with all of your pitches, it's going to allow you to go deeper into games and take control of the game."

"It's just getting comfortable with it," he said of his changeup. "I didn't throw it a lot in college. Just being able to keep my good arm speed and just trust my grip. Sometimes I want to pronate too much and not allow my grip to take off the speed. So it's just being more comfortable with it."

"Everything goes into it, from the grip to the arm speed, to staying over the rubber - I think I need to do all of it a little bit better and be more consistent with it, not just for strikes but to be able to throw it where I want it and when I want to."

Gaining more confidence with his changeup to add to an already devastating repertoire, and already showing success at the Double-A level, Chamberlain is starting to realize the big leagues are not that far off.

"Yeah," he said if it's hit home with him that he's getting close to the big leagues. "Last year when I saw these guys pitch in the big leagues, I was thinking they were super-human. 'How are they getting these guys out? These are the best hitters in the world'. Now you realize you're an hour and half away, maybe even closer."

"It's crazy to think about, but you realize how close you are. There's always stuff to work on but you have to stay focused, whether it's Double-A or the big leagues, it's 60-feet, six inches."

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Pinstripes Plus Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nSigning too late last season to make his professional debut and missing the first month of the 2007 campaign with a hamstring injury, the Yankees still promoted Joba Chamberlain to Double-A after just seven starts for the Tampa Yankees.
\r\n
\r\n\"No,\" he said when asked if he expected to move this quickly. \"It was a good surprise. If you had asked me last year if I would be in Double-A in less than ten starts in A-ball, I would have told you that you were crazy.\"
\r\n
\r\nChamberlain went a perfect 4-0 with a 2.03 ERA in the Florida State League and held opposing batters to a .181 batting average. And with a better than four to one strikeout-to-walk ratio, there was a lot to like about his numbers.
\r\n
\r\n\"It went well, I got to learn a lot,\" Chamberlain said of his time in Tampa. \"Greg Pavlik [Tampa pitching coach] - it was a great honor to share thoughts with him and to learn a lot.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"It was a little frustrating at first, having the hamstring injury, but it was probably a blessing in disguise being able to handle it then, being able to watch guys like Ian [Kennedy] and [Daniel] McCutchen because we're all different pitchers. It was fun to watch and I learned a lot.\"
\r\n
\r\nKnown for his blazing fastball and solid breaking pitches, Chamberlain used his time in the Florida State League to continue working on the same areas he had worked on during his stint in the Hawaiian Winter League this past offseason.
\r\n
\r\n\"Just mechanics and the changeup obviously,\" he listed as the things he was working on in Tampa, \"it has become a lot better. It's a pitch that I'm not hesitant to throw now. I just need to keep throwing it to get a better feel or it, just keep doing it. It's come a long, long way, a lot faster than I thought it would.\"
\r\n
\r\nChamberlain's pitching coach in Hawaii, Scott Aldred, is also his current pitching coach in Trenton. The former big league southpaw agrees with Chamberlain's assessment.
\r\n
\r\n\"It's much better,\" Aldred said of Chamberlain's changeup now compared to the one he was throwing in Hawaii, \"though it's difficult to force him to throw his changeup up here when he doesn't even need it. He can pitch with his fastball and his breaking balls and dominate guys.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"Though he may at some point need it, he may not. He may be able to roll right into the big leagues and use three pitches to get outs, I don't know. But it sure would be nice to have that fourth pitch develop to some degree that he could at least throw it for strikes, if not, throw it when he's behind in the count somewhere down the road.\"
\r\n
\r\nWith Chamberlain sitting comfortably in the mid-90's with his fastball and consistently hitting the 97-98 MPH plateau with his heater in the fifth and sixth innings of Trenton's 7-4 loss to Reading on Sunday, perhaps Aldred is right.
\r\n
\r\nAnd while he has the option of going to a plus slider and a quality curveball when the situation call for it, Chamberlain still wants a reliable changeup to add into the mix.
\r\n
\r\n\"I'm comfortable with everything at this point,\" Chamberlain said of his stuff, \"which isn't the way it has been in the past. I'm finally comfortable shaking to a changeup in a hitter's count and having confidence to throw my pitch in a hitter's count, and vice-versa.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"I'm able to throw my offspeed for strikes too and definitely pitching off of my fastball has allowed me to throw my offspeed in hitter's counts.\"
\r\n
\r\nHe still continues to go to his great slider or curveball in the big spot, but he also realizes the further development of his changeup could be his final hurdle into becoming a complete pitcher and nearly big league ready.
\r\n
\r\n\"Just the changeup,\" he said what is his top priority in Double-A. \"Big league hitters are going to recognize curveballs better than guys down here. They still have trouble picking up changeups.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"I think the more consistent I can get with the changeup - just to be able to throw it more - when you get to the big leagues, it's all about survival. I think the more consistent you can be with all of your pitches, it's going to allow you to go deeper into games and take control of the game.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"It's just getting comfortable with it,\" he said of his changeup. \"I didn't throw it a lot in college. Just being able to keep my good arm speed and just trust my grip. Sometimes I want to pronate too much and not allow my grip to take off the speed. So it's just being more comfortable with it.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"Everything goes into it, from the grip to the arm speed, to staying over the rubber - I think I need to do all of it a little bit better and be more consistent with it, not just for strikes but to be able to throw it where I want it and when I want to.\"
\r\n
\r\nGaining more confidence with his changeup to add to an already devastating repertoire, and already showing success at the Double-A level, Chamberlain is starting to realize the big leagues are not that far off.
\r\n
\r\n\"Yeah,\" he said if it's hit home with him that he's getting close to the big leagues. \"Last year when I saw these guys pitch in the big leagues, I was thinking they were super-human. 'How are they getting these guys out? These are the best hitters in the world'. Now you realize you're an hour and half away, maybe even closer.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"It's crazy to think about, but you realize how close you are. There's always stuff to work on but you have to stay focused, whether it's Double-A or the big leagues, it's 60-feet, six inches.\"
\r\n
\r\n

\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n\r\n
\r\n

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\r\n

\r\n

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