Joba Chamberlain proves to be a man of his word
After his 14-month journey back to the mound officially ended Wednesday afternoon, Joba Chamberlain said that during that stretch, "I really never had a worst day."
But that wasn't quite true.
There was the late afternoon of March 27 in Tampa, when Chamberlain, his lower right leg in a walking boot, sat behind a table in the interview tent the Yankees use for big news conferences during spring training.
And this was a big one. Chamberlain would be making his first public comments since suffering an open dislocation of his right ankle on a trampoline five days earlier -- an injury serious enough that "gruesome," "grisly" and "ghastly" got a workout in the papers and online.
Sitting in front of a large media contingent that day, Chamberlain made it clear that there had been at least a couple of bad days after the accident. He also had two messages he wanted to get out before taking questions.
First, he politely scolded reporters for some of the initial calamitous reports about the injury, one of which called it "life-threatening."
"It kind of bothered me to have my family go through that," he said.
Second, unambiguously, he stated this expectation: He would pitch again in 2012.
Many of the questions that followed, and the ensuing stories, expressed a clear skepticism about that happening.
All of it, Chamberlain has said, acted as a sort of continuous motivational loop in his mind as he progressed in his rehab. The "doubters," he kept saying, would be proven wrong.
And they finally were Wednesday afternoon at the Stadium when Chamberlain took the mound during a 12-3 victory over the Orioles.
Chamberlain didn't display the quality of stuff the Yankees hope will solidify their bullpen in front of David Robertson and Rafael Soriano. But as Brian Cashman said Thursday, "I'm not going to make anything of one outing."
Nor of Chamberlain's fastball velocity, which consistently was in the mid-to- high 90s in his rehab outings but sat at only 91 to 93 mph Wednesday.
"I'm not alarmed by it," Cashman said.
That Chamberlain made it back this season may have surprised many outside the organization, but few inside it were startled.
Cashman called Chamberlain's injury "very significant" and "terrible" the day after it occurred, but when it comes to recovering from injuries, he also has referred to the reliever as "Superman."
Robertson visited with Chamberlain in the hospital shortly after the accident and said he saw a pitcher determined to return this season.
"He's a tough guy. It takes a lot to bring him down," Robertson said Wednesday. "As soon as it happens, he knew 'this stinks and I'll be down for a little while, but how long does it take to heal? I'm going to be back then.' "
Back where Chamberlain never doubted he'd be.
Notes & quotes: Cashman said Swisher has been "cleared" to play in rightfield. He has not started in right since coming out of a July 20 game in Oakland with a left hip flexor strain, although he did start twice as the DH and once at first base . . . Cashman said it's possible that Mark Teixeira (left wrist) will be back Friday night but won't know until Teixeira shows up at the ballpark in the afternoon.