Joba Chamberlain feels blessed to be back with Yankees and in playoffs

Joba Chamberlain leaves a game against the Baltimore

Joba Chamberlain leaves a game against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium. (Sept. 2, 2012) (Credit: Jim McIsaac)

In June 2011, Joba Chamberlain underwent Tommy John elbow surgery.

Later that month, he had an appendectomy.

In March, he was on the table again for emergency surgery to repair an open dislocation of his right ankle after a freakish trampoline accident.

In August, he was on the mound for the Yankees. By September, he was pitching in key spots as a valuable member of the bullpen.

Finally, on Wednesday, Chamberlain was in the middle of a champagne-soaked clubhouse after the Yankees clinched the AL East and home-field advantage throughout the American League playoffs.

"You know what? I can't be more blessed than to be in this situation," Chamberlain said. "It's been a long year for me, and to be able to be in these situations to help this team win, I couldn't have asked for anything better. My teammates never gave up on me, my organization never gave up on me and I didn't give up on myself."

After Chamberlain's gruesome ankle injury -- which came while he was playing with his son -- Yankees general manager Brian Cashman couldn't say for certain if Chamberlain's career would continue. As if recovering from Tommy John surgery wasn't enough.

"It was a grind every day," Chamberlain said. "It was the same thing every day. I just had to continue to stay focused on what I needed to do. I made a promise to my teammates in spring training that I was going to come back and pitch for them. That was one of the hardest things that I've ever had to do. I can't thank them enough for the things they've done for me and the way that they supported me."

Said bullpen mate David Robertson: "I think Joba expected to be here. He's a really tough competitor and a vital part of our bullpen for the parts that he's been here. I know that he had a couple of setbacks and injuries, but he's here now and he's ready to go."

He wasn't when he first came back to the big leagues. Chamberlain allowed 16 hits and seven runs in his first 7 1/3 innings. He had an 8.59 ERA in August.

But he found it in September with a fastball that, while not vintage triple-digit 2007 Joba, was consistently in the high 90s, plus a slider that regained its bite.

In September and October, Chamberlain pitched to a 2.03 ERA. He went from mop-up man to pitching in high-leverage situations and finished with a 1-0 record and 4.35 ERA in 22 games.

"Probably most people would be sitting at home getting ready for next season," Nick Swisher said. "We needed him. We needed him to step up in some big spots. He struggled there early, but really got his game back and locked and loaded. For him to be getting his swag back, man, I think that's major."

So is just being there at all. He knows it.

Said Chamberlain: "Words can't describe how I feel right now."

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