Joba Chamberlain hits 97 mph in return to live action

Joba Chamberlain celebrates in a 2009 file photo.

Joba Chamberlain celebrates in a 2009 file photo. (Credit: Kathy Kmonicek)

BRADENTON, Fla. -- On a searing west central Florida morning, Joba Chamberlain's checkered life as a Yankee came full circle.

More significantly, his fastball came at full speed.

Returning to the city where he made his first appearance in a Yankees uniform, Chamberlain tossed 23 promising pitches Tuesday in his first live game action -- against a Pirates rookie-league team -- in more than 13 months.

With his fastball topping out at 97 mph, Chamberlain fanned the final two of the four batters he faced in his one-inning starting appearance. Working exclusively from the stretch, he allowed no hits, no walks and one unearned run, courtesy of a pair of errors by the third baseman and a passed ball.

"My heart was racing and it's nice to see somebody up there [at the plate] with the guys behind you," Chamberlain said moments after his cameo at Pirate City. "You sweat a little bit more and the adrenaline's going, but I couldn't have been more pleased with my off-speed stuff. Obviously, my fastball command wasn't where I would like it, but as far as velocity and everything that goes along with that with my arm was great."

Indeed, the full counts Chamberlain worked to the first two batters seemed the only residual effects of the Tommy John surgery last summer and the grisly right-ankle dislocation he suffered while jumping on a trampoline with his son in March.

With feel-like temperatures nudging toward 90, he quickly got ahead of the final two batters, fanning them on a checked swing and full swing, respectively. Afterward, he showed no limp during wind sprints on an adjacent field.

"That last hitter was perfect for me, just to be able to throw everything and finish with a fastball down and away was exactly where I wanted it to be," said Chamberlain, slated to work a bullpen session Thursday before another rookie-league game Saturday.

"Just to feel comfortable and just to be in a game, I mean, really was the biggest thing. So I was very pleased."

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