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Joba amused by controversy

Joba amused by controversy

CHICAGO -- Joba Chamberlain called it "a never-ending topic," and judging by the national debate that followed Hank Steinbrenner's comments over the weekend, the Yankees right-hander might just be right.

In his first comments since Steinbrenner opined that the Yankees should move the 22-year-old fire-balling reliever to the rotation as soon as possible -- a stance he later softened -- an amused Chamberlain said that he is ready to go along with the organization's evolving plans for him, whatever they may be.

"[I want to be] a pitcher," Chamberlain said. "I honestly don't care [what role]. Being able to help this team in any way, I don't care if it's for one inning or six or seven strong. It's a win-win opportunity for everyone involved."

Following Steinbrenner's comments to multiple media outlets, in which the Yankees' co-chairman said that he wanted Chamberlain as a starter and the organization would work toward that, Steinbrenner and general manager Brian Cashman spoke in a telephone conversation and insist that they are -- and have been -- on the same page.

The debate is a good one. Chamberlain was a dominant starting pitcher in college and at the Minor League level before he was promoted to the Major Leagues last August to help the Yankees' faltering bullpen. Chamberlain did not disappoint, posting a 0.38 ERA in 19 appearances and playing a key role in helping the Yankees reach the postseason.

This season, Chamberlain has made six appearances for New York, allowing one run in 6 1/3 innings for a 1.42 ERA. He has struck out eight while scattering five hits, walking two and logging a victory on April 3 vs. Toronto.

"As I told Cashman from the get-go, I'm never going to make his decision easy," Chamberlain said. "It's something that I'm going to continue to work hard and come to the ballpark every day. If it comes down to when I'm going to get switched and I've got to do some things to get ready, then that's fine. If I'm going to stay where I'm at, then that's fine too."

The Yankees prepared Chamberlain as a starting pitcher for a good chunk of Spring Training this year, but, with five healthy starters near the close of camp, transitioned Chamberlain back into his setup role for closer Mariano Rivera. Chamberlain said that he does not believe his switch to relieving has affected his future starting potential.

"You still continue to get all your work in, as far as getting all your pitches," Chamberlain said. "I don't think it hurt me at all. Definitely you understand the different mentalities it takes to be successful at both levels. Sometimes that's the hardest part, being able to change mentally. Physically, it's the same thing, but mentally it becomes harder."

Steinbrenner said that the Yankees intend to have Chamberlain in their rotation by the end of the year, something they shied away from -- in part -- because Chamberlain is on a strict innings limit that is believed to be close to 140. Cashman has stated that there is no way Chamberlain could start for six months in the Yankees rotation without reaching that innings limit and being shut down.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that he would not speculate on if or when Chamberlain would or could be available to be added to the rotation.

"We've had a plan since when I got here in November," Girardi said. "We talked about it over the winter and Spring Training. I just know what the plan is now. It's an organizational plan. Who knows where we're going to be in June, July, August, September?

"All I'm going to say today is, we have a plan in place today for Joba and we're sticking to our plan. He's in our bullpen today. I'm not concerned about two weeks from now, I'm not concerned about six weeks from now. I'm worried about today."

Chamberlain traveled ahead to Chicago on Monday and, though he tries to keep the television off on an off-day, said he learned of Steinbrenner's comments when numerous friends called him to let him know of the ongoing media wildfire.

"I'll be out there giving people something to talk about," Chamberlain said. "It'll be interesting to see what happens and what takes place. Just to be on this team and to be thought of in one role or the other is definitely good."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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