ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Reversing his thoughts from earlier in the week, Joe Girardi said Saturday that Joba Chamberlain is likely to pitch out of the bullpen Sunday in the Yankees' regular-season finale.
Chamberlain very well could be pitching for a spot on the Division Series roster.
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"I had talked after his start Wednesday I wasn't going to use him," Girardi said before last night's game. "But after sitting down and discussing it with our trainer a little bit, talking to Cash [general manager Brian Cashman] and Dave [Eiland, the pitching coach], we might use him for an inning or a couple hitters just to see how he reacts."
The Yankees will need only three starting pitchers for the Division Series against the Tigers or Twins and seem likely to go with 10 pitchers and 15 position players for the first round. Chamberlain, Girardi said, "is in the mix" for a spot in the bullpen, probably competing with the likes of Brian Bruney and Chad Gaudin.
Chamberlain, who said after his poor start against the Royals on Wednesday that he would "fold towels" in the postseason if it would help the team win, didn't recoil at the suggestion that today's game could be an audition of sorts.
"Every day you come out here, you have to prove yourself," Chamberlain said. "There's always somebody who wants to take your job, and that's the greatest thing about this team. We push each other so much, and that's something that these guys look forward to. We always push each other. I'm excited to get the ball in that situation and we'll go from there."
Girardi said he will be looking for several things with Chamberlain, such as "how quickly he warms up" and the 24-year-old righthander's "approach."
"Everything that you'd want to know if we were going to bring him in for an inning , what he would do," Girardi said.
Can one inning on the final day of the season provide enough information?
"I think it can give you a better idea of what you're going to get," Girardi said. "Will it necessarily tell you what you're going to get during a series? It may not tell you that, but I think it will give you a better idea."
Of course, the role isn't a new one for Chamberlain, still the presumed starter for the fourth game of the ALCS if the Yankees get that far. He was brilliant coming out of the bullpen as a rookie in 2007 and started - and finished - last season as a reliever (the Yankees worked him into the starting rotation from June 3 to Aug. 4). Chamberlain's last bullpen appearance was Sept. 28 of last season, when he faced two hitters in Boston and was charged with two runs.
"It's nothing new, so I have a plan on what I need to do because I have done it before, so that's the advantage that I have," Chamberlain said. "Just come to the ballpark with the knowledge you're probably going to pitch in the game and go from there."
Notes & quotes: Damaso Marte increasingly looks as if he'll make the postseason roster. "Marte's thrown the ball really well for us," said Girardi, who would like another lefty reliever out of the bullpen to go with Phil Coke. "You look at his games against lefties, he's been very, very good this year." Lefties have hit .120 against Marte since he was activated Aug. 21 . . . In the clubhouse before the game, two televisions showed college football games (LSU vs. Georgia and Notre Dame vs. Washington) and the other two carried the Royals-Twins game. "I think it's great for baseball," Girardi said of the down-to-the-wire race between the Tigers and Twins. "But we're also very curious because we're curious about who we're going to play." . . . Jerry Hairston, who started at shortstop last night after starting in leftfield Friday night, said his left wrist, which has received two cortisone shots in the last month, feels "totally normal." . . . Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter were given last night off. Both are expected to start Sunday.. . . It was a tradition of Joe Torre to have a veteran Yankee manage the final game of the season. Girardi said he will leave it up to Jorge Posada, who will not be in the lineup, to decide if he wants to manage Sunday's game. "I'll check with him to see what he wants to do,'' Girardi said . . . Girardi also disclosed that Sergio Mitre has "a little biceps tendinitis,'' likely taking the righty out of consideration for a postseason roster spot.