A little more than a year ago, Joba Chamberlain was getting his first taste of professional baseball with West Oahu in Hawaii Winter Baseball. After torching through three levels of the minor leagues last year before striking out 34 batters in 24 innings for a 0.38 ERA in the majors, Chamberlain heads into 2008 not only as a strong rookie of the year candidate, but with the heightened external expectations that accompany most high-ranking prospects in the nation’s largest market.
"He’s kind of drinking from a fire hose right now," (Yankees general manager Brian) Cashman said at Legends Field.
"So much has happened for him because of the 24 innings of major-league work. It was 24 innings, so it’s incumbent on all of us around him who care about him, his father and everyone in the Yankee family to make sure that we slow it all down for him because sometimes that stuff can carry you away."
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"He’s really level-headed,” Cashman said. "I do trust this won’t have an adverse affect on him, but at the same time you have to manage it. You can’t trust that everybody can manage all of it. That’s why the support system is there, and hopefully with all the people that care about him, his life will continue as it was before Aug. 7, when we called him up to the big leagues.
"He’s a special individual and hopefully that will never change. He’s such a big kid, he does have his priorities straight, and that all goes to what his dad taught him. I’m hoping when he’s 40 years old and still playing this game that he still has that little kid in him, because that’s what people love about him."
Although Cashman didn’t mention specifically what the organization will do to manage Chamberlain’s expectations, the Yankees will at least manage his workload by having him start the season in the bullpen. Chamberlain only pitched 124 1/3 innings and faced 437 batters last year after missing the first month of the season with a mild hamstring pull. He pitched 127 innings and faced 523 batters in 2006; 89 1/3 innings and 380 batters faced during the college season at Nebraska, then 37 2/3 innings and 143 batters faced between October and November in HWB.