Monday, June 2, 2008


SMART move or panic move? We’ll have a better idea tomorrow when Joba Chamberlain makes his much anticipated first start for the New York Yankees.

Tuesday night is a big night for followers of both New York baseball teams. Mets fans will be on the edge of their seats too as injury-prone Pedro Martínez makes his return in San Francisco.

Top billing, however, goes to Joba. Manager Joe Girardi was reluctant to elaborate on the reasons why the move is being made in early June. I guess they’re fairly obvious.

Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy have both fallen well short of expectations; Chien-Mien Wang is not a genuine No. 1 starter; No. 2 Andy Pettitte probably won’t be around next season.

After declining to trade for Johan Santana last winter, the Yanks desperately need a pitching ace. That’s why the mercurial Chamberlain is being moved from the bullpen to the rotation a lot earlier than planned.

Whether it’s the preferred choice of Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman, or down to the pressure applied by senior vice president Hank Steinbrenner, is a matter for debate.

In an ideal world, preparing for such a major move would be done during spring training. Chamberlain’s transition has been rushed to say the least. And with the limitation of a pitch count between 65 and 70, the bullpen better start warming up now.

One difficult inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at the Stadium and Joba might not last that long. We know he has great stuff. We don’t know what his balls to strikes ratio will be as a starter.

The Yanks need a spark. Despite winning eight of 11, they’re 28-28 and going nowhere at the moment.

Red Sox show their power by pounding Orioles

They lost last week’s series in Baltimore 2-1. Compare that to the Boston Red Sox, who followed the Yankees into Camden Yards and won the first three games of a four-game series by a margin of 20-9.

The Yanks may be hitting a little more consistently but their performances in Minnesota have hardly been convincing. They scraped home 6-5 on Friday night, were lucky not to blow a 6-3 lead on Saturday and looked lifeless in yesterday’s 5-1 loss.

With more than a third of the season gone, they’re 6.5 games behind the Tampa Bay Rays, 5.5 behind Boston, and have yet to prove they’re any better than a .500 team.

Jorge Posada’s return later this week will strengthen the batting line-up but, like Alex Rodriguez, he’s probably going to take time get back in the groove.

Trailing 2-0 against the Twins yesterday, the Yanks needed A-Rod to come through in the third inning when they had the bases loaded with only one out. He ran the count full only to swing over the top of a breaking ball. A fully tuned A-Rod would surely have done some damage in that situation.

Over at Shea Stadium, the picture is looking considerably brighter for the Mets and their under-fire manager Willie Randolph.

Five wins in a seven-game homestand against the Florida Marlins and the Los Angeles Dodgers send the Mets heading to the West Coast in much higher spirits.

Having Pedro back from the disabled list is a big boost both on and off the field. Now Mets fans will be crossing everything that he stays healthy for the rest of the season.

If he can, then they have a good chance of overhauling the Phillies at the top of the National League East.

Whatever happens tomorrow night, it should be of great significance for the rest of the season.

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