Will Joba Chamberlain start next year?

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He has no clue:

As for Chamberlain, the Yankees have not yet told him whether he should prepare as a starting pitcher or a reliever . . . The only hints he has received have come from general manager Brian Cashman, who said last week that he envisioned both Chamberlain and Phil Hughes as starters — but starters who are capable of relieving. “So he didn’t really answer the question,” Chamberlain cracked.

The uncertainty is understandable inasmuch as whether Chamberlain, or to that extent Phil Hughes, needs to start is going to depend on whether Andy Pettite comes back, whether the Yankees sign John Lackey. Or Randy Wolf or Segio Mitre or some other off-brand starter for that matter. If I had to guess I’d say that there will be at most a fifth starter’s slot to fill between Hughes and Chamberlain.

His late season struggles aside, I’d be inclined to tap Chamberlain for that role. He looked like he was putting it together around the All-Star break. Then, for reasons that can only be chalked up to the Joba Rules, the Yankees started limiting his innings, messing with his rest and generally treating him like some special case as a starter in August and September.  He knew going in to every game that he was going to be yanked before the fifth inning, which had to mess with his preparation and approach. I can’t help but think that the problems he had in the second half were due in large part to being jerked around.

And really, he’s been jerked around for three years.  Give the guy a job. Leave him alone. Allow him to pitch without putting him under the microscope and I have this feeling the Yankees will be pleasantly surprised with what they get.

A.J. Hinch: “We’ll use every pitcher in Game 7 if we have to”

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It’s not entirely clear why the Astros threw Ken Giles into the ninth inning of Game 6 of the ALCS. With a six-run advantage and the bottom half of the Yankees’ lineup due up, pushing the series to its seven-game capacity looked like a sure bet. Giles may be one of Houston’s better bullpen arms, but he’s not their only option, and it would have made more sense to keep him fresh for a do-or-die Game 7 on Saturday night.

Of course, there’s no such thing as a sure bet when it comes to postseason baseball. That’s more or less what Astros’ manager A.J. Hinch had to say after the game, telling reporters that he had envisioned a quick three outs from his closer as they tried to pull back from the brink of elimination. “We didn’t have the luxury of limping into that inning,” Hinch said. “We’ve seen how these guys can explode in these innings.”

It’s not difficult to recall the Yankees’ explosive drive in the eighth inning of Game 4, when they exploited the holes in Houston’s ‘pen and evened the series with Gary Sanchez‘s go-ahead double off of Giles. Back home in Minute Maid Park, however, there was a slightly different feel to the eighth and ninth innings of Game 6. Jose Altuve led off the eighth with a solo home run, followed by Alex Bregman‘s two-run double and Evan Gattis‘ sac fly. In the ninth, Giles labored through a 23-pitch outing to lock down the win, handing out a base hit and a seven-pitch walk before eventually whiffing Chase Headley on three straight pitches for the last out.

So, while Hinch’s decision to lean on Giles in Game 6 may have felt wasteful, his concerns were not entirely unfounded. He’s prepared to roll with the same strategy during Saturday’s series finale, too, leaving nothing on the table as the Astros battle for their first World Series showdown since 2005. According to Dallas Keuchel, that means all hands on deck — except for Justin Verlander, whose four wins, 24 strikeouts and 1.46 postseason ERA have gotten the Astros as far as he could possibly be expected to take them. “No pitcher is going to be in the dugout,” said Keuchel. “They’re all going to be in the bullpen, myself included. Any way we can help out, we’re trying to get to the World Series, the same way the Yankees are, and that’s a nice feeling to have.”

Does that mean Giles will be available for a Game 7 appearance? Stranger things have happened. Joe Sheehan notes that the right-hander has pitched in back-to-back days 13 times this year, though he’s never thrown as many as 23 pitches on Day 1. Granted, he likely doesn’t have enough left in the tank for another 20+ pitch run on Saturday, but with the World Series on the line, any help he can offer will be invaluable.