Joba Chamberlain on track to pitch in minors next week

Yankees reliever Joba Chamberlain points while on the

Yankees reliever Joba Chamberlain points while on the mound in the seventh inning against the Tigers on Opening Day 2011. (Mar. 31, 2011) (Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara)

TAMPA, Fla. -- Joba Chamberlain feels ready to pitch in his first minor-league rehab game next week, and he's getting no disagreement from the Yankees.

"I think that's the next step," Chamberlain said after a 25- pitch simulated game Friday at the team's minor-league complex. "To be able to get in there and face some guys, and put a real uniform on. I'm excited about that. We've got through the BPs, we've got through the sim games. Today went really well. I felt good."

Before Friday night's game in Boston, Joe Girardi said the righthander, who will throw a bullpen session Sunday, mentioned Tuesday as a strong possibility for Chamberlain getting into a rehab game, starting the de facto 30-day clock for his return.

Chamberlain, who dislocated his right ankle bouncing on a trampoline with his son on March 22, will talk with team officials to finalize his pitching schedule. He expects to pitch first with the rookie-level Gulf Coast League Yankees, who have home games on Monday, Thursday and Saturday.

Minor-leaguers Dan Brewer and Justin James hit against Chamberlain, who struck out three of six batters in Friday's simulated game. He walked one and allowed a single.

"It was nice to just be able to get into some counts," Chamberlain said. "They hit one ball [hard] out of that whole thing. That's a good sign for me, to just be able to attack the zone with all four pitches. I even threw a couple changeups. But really just focused on fastball command, in and out."

Chamberlain was coming back from Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery at the time of the ankle injury.

Austin Romine, who has not played this season because of a back injury, caught Chamberlain and could be ready for game action in the next week or so.

Notes & quotes: CC Sabathia (groin) threw in the outfield at Fenway Park on Friday and is expected to throw a bullpen session Sunday. Girardi said the expectation is that he'll be slotted into the rotation after the All-Star break . . . Brett Gardner (strained right elbow) took dry swings with a fungo bat Friday . . . Cory Wade will be brought up for Saturday's split doubleheader.

With Erik Boland in Boston

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