Yanks' Chamberlain rebounds with four strong innings

New York Yankees' Joba Chamberlain throws live batting

New York Yankees' Joba Chamberlain throws live batting practice to hitters during spring training. (February 26, 2010) Photo Credit: AP

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CLEARWATER, Fla. - Joba Chamberlain said, "Sometimes you need a kick in the rear," and Joe Girardi obliged.

"He's got to pick it up," the Yankees manager told reporters Tuesday, a message he conveyed in private late last week.

Chamberlain, in danger of falling out of the race for the fifth starter's job, did pick it up Wednesday, pitching four strong innings in the Yankees' 6-2 loss to the Phillies at Bright House Field.

"Outstanding," Girardi said. "He worked quickly, attacked the zone."

Chamberlain showed aggression, particularly in throwing his fastball inside, which Girardi and pitching coach Dave Eiland had been imploring him to do.

Girardi also said "pace" was one of the biggest differences he noticed in Chamberlain compared to his last outing March 10 against the Tigers, when he allowed six runs in 21/3 innings.

"I thought he worked quicker today, I thought his mechanics were sound today," Girardi said. "And he attacked. He was ahead in the count most of the day. He had fastball command today."

Chamberlain officially allowed one run and two hits in three innings. Though the Phillies were ahead, he had a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth with two strikeouts. Chamberlain, on a 65-pitch limit, threw 47 and retired to the bullpen to throw 15 more.

"Joe does a great job of motivating his players and pushing them and getting what he needs," he said. "I have to give him some of the credit."

Chamberlain walked three in his last outing but only one yesterday. He said he benefited from Girardi's message and talking to, among others, former Yankees Ron Guidry and Goose Gossage, who are a daily presence at camp.

"We got a lot of eyes around that have been pretty good for a long time, not only the current guys but the guys that have been around, Goose and the other guys," Chamberlain said. "It's just the mentality of going out and getting it and trusting yourself. Just let it fly."

Asked why he seems to need periodic reminders about those things, Chamberlain shrugged. "I don't know," he said. "That's why this game is so hard. I had a great week of work, going to get back after it tomorrow and go from there."

Girardi wouldn't say Wednesday was a make-or-break game for Chamberlain to stay in the race, but he acknowledged: "You don't want to fall too far behind."

Chamberlain said he didn't enter it in that frame of mind.

"You can't think like that," he said. "If you have that negative attitude from the get-go, you're only setting yourself up for failure."

Channeling his inner Norman Vincent Peale, Chamberlain added: "That's positive thinking. Positive thinking turns into positive thoughts and positive thoughts turn into positive actions. That's something that I have to continue to work on. The mental part of this game is hard."

Before the game, Girardi said he believed Chamberlain "really wants to start," but at the same time, "the hardest thing for me is to be inside his mind."

Chamberlain answered the question directly after the game.

"I'm going to fight with all my heart, with everything I got to try and win that job and try to help this team win," he said. "That's something I want to do, to get that opportunity to hopefully not have any innings restrictions and go from there."

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