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Elbow tear could cost Joba rest of season

Joba Chamberlain #62 of the New York Yankees

Joba Chamberlain #62 of the New York Yankees talks with the media during batting practice before the game against the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium. (June 9, 2011) Credit: Jim McIsaac

Joba Chamberlain is all but certain to miss the rest of this season, and quite possibly the start of the next one, as a second MRI showed a ligament tear in his right elbow.

Manager Joe Girardi made the announcement before Thursday night's game against the Red Sox at the Stadium.

An MRI done Wednesday showed a strained flexor muscle, with the second MRI, done yesterday showing the tear, a surprise to everyone because Chamberlain hasn't exhibited any of the symptoms consistent with such an injury.

The Yankees plan to send the film of the MRI to Dr. James Andrews, who will make a recommendation, but general manager Brian Cashman said he doesn't see how surgery can be avoided.

"From our perspective, it's Tommy John," Cashman said. "The ligament is torn . . . The strength and stuff is there. It's not like it was something we were expecting or dealing with. The MRI does not match up with any symptoms."

What's next for the Yankees?

As of now, staying put, Cashman said.

"We always look from within first," Cashman said.

The trade market has yet to develop but will in the coming weeks and, in addition to a starter, the Yankees will be looking for bullpen help.

One name to watch is Kerry Wood, a trade deadline pickup last season for the Yankees who signed a one-year, $1.5-million deal with the Cubs -- who were 11 1/2 games out of first entering last night -- this offseason.

By all accounts, the reliever very much enjoyed just about every aspect -- his teammates, the intensity of the division race, etc. -- of his 2 1/2 months in the Bronx. Based on that, Wood, who has a full no-trade clause, might accept a return to New York.

The Mets' Francisco Rodriguez could be available, becoming even more so if the Mets fall further behind in the division and wild card race.

Among the in-house possibilities are Kevin Whelan, pitching well for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, as well as lefthander Randy Flores, also pitching well in Scranton. Cashman ruled out, for now, two of the Yankees' top prospects, Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos, both of whom are in Double-A Trenton.

For the Yankees and Chamberlain, 2-0 with a 2.83 ERA in a team-high 27 appearances, Thursday's news was nothing less than shocking.

The pitcher, unscored on in his last eight appearances, routinely hit 95, 96 mph on the Yankees' recent West Coast trip and experienced nothing more than "stiffness" in the arm.

"It really has us all kind of scratching our heads," Girardi said.

"It sucks, there's no way to sugar coat it, I guess," Chamberlain said in the clubhouse before Thursday night's game. "Just something I didn't expect, obviously, with no pain or nothing like that. The frustrating part is not being there for the team, watching these guys battle and work their tails off. That's the most frustrating part for me."

As for the much-analyzed "Joba Rules," from his breakout season in 2007 to 2009 when the Yankees unsuccessfully tried to break him in as a starter, there was no second guessing.

"Those rules exist in our minor leagues," Cashman said. "The only reason it was all publicized up here was because they were put in a position at the big league level and you had to protect guys. You don't normally have to do it at this level because guys don't move that fast. They weren't created for Joba. They've existed for years . . . I don't think there's any regret in trying to protect players."

Having Tommy John, a surgery that typically sends shivers down most pitchers' spines, will be for the better, Joba said.

"This is a surgery that a lot of guys have had and have come back and been successful, so, you know, just I thought about that," Chamberlain said. "You've got to turn everything into a positive."

With John Jeansonne

and Ken Davidoff

New York Sports