Joba Chamberlain said he will remember this game forever and so will most everyone who was at it. Few will remember Chamberlain's part in it, though.
On a night that honored the virtue of longevity, Chamberlain did his own part for the cause. He allowed the top half of the first inning to last 16 minutes in the latest of his spring training-style starts.
The Yankees game forever will be enshrined as the one in which Derek Jeter tied Lou Gehrig's franchise record for hits, an all-time august accomplishment. Chamberlain, meanwhile, wasn't in August or anything close to midseason. He was in March, the time when starters go only three innings.
"It's something that I'll remember forever, knowing that I started this game," Chamberlain said. "It's a legacy that he's going to leave on this stadium for a long time."
Two days after the Yankees openly mused about the possibility of not starting Chamberlain to start in the American League Division Series, he took another short step in his carefully calibrated development. He allowed a home run to Jason Bartlett, the first Rays batter, and another run on Pat Burrell's single later in the inning. Chamberlain was perfect in the final two innings of his 55-pitch effort, but the 23-year-old wasn't anything near what Rays 26-year-old rookie pitcher Jeff Niemann was.
Niemann, whom Tampa Bay is promoting as a candidate for American League Rookie of the Year, shut out the Yankees for seven innings, then left after allowing a leadoff single to Alex Rodriguez in the eighth and then watching the Rays bullpen and defense make a hash of his start in the Yankees' 4-2 win.
Still, Chamberlain saw only positives, especially considering that Jeter came to the mound and gave him a pep talk. "He doesn't give too many of those get-in-your face talks," the pitcher said. "He just said settle down and make your pitches, you know you're going to be successful. You know he's behind you.
Chamberlain called it a success, his three innings of three-hit ball.
"That's probably the best my delivery has been all year," he said. "A couple [bad] pitches and that's it."
He added that he knew "from the get-go" that it was going to be a three-inning appearance, but his arm kind of told him to shoot for four once he did well in the second and third. "He didn't want to come out," manager Joe Girardi said, adding that he held firm and told the low-pitch-count starter that they're just slowly building him up.
"I thought he was pretty good," Girardi said, giving it a positive inflection. "He was more of a sidebar tonight, which isn't usually the case."
Chamberlain knew that no matter what he did, this wasn't going to be his night.
"To see Derek and his family here and to just be part of it, it was special . . . It's going to one of the first things that ever happened big in this stadium. I'm honored to be a part of it and I'm honored to be his teammate."