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Joba on fifth spot in rotation: Hughes deserved it

Joba Chamberlain throwing a bullpen session at Steinbrenner

Joba Chamberlain throwing a bullpen session at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla. (March 8, 2010) Photo Credit: AP

TAMPA, Fla. - Joba Chamberlain sat on a cart near the Yankees' dugout a little more than an hour before Friday night's game, occasionally signing baseballs and tossing them to kids in the crowd.

If he was upset about the news he received Thursday, that Phil Hughes has captured the fifth starter's job that Chamberlain had spent the winter preparing to win, that time had passed.

"I'm happy for Phil first and foremost," Chamberlain said Friday. "He deserved it. He worked his tail off to get where he's at and now I get the opportunity to help the team in the bullpen, and I'm excited."

Chamberlain did acknowledge there was some disappointment in not accomplishing what he set out to do. "I'd be lying if I said no,'' he said, "because that's what you worked so hard for." He also noted what has been evident for quite a while. "Hughes just beat me, that's it," he said. "That's the long and the short of it."

Chamberlain has a 16.20 ERA in three games (one start) in spring training. His last outing, March 17 against the Phillies (he also pitched in an intrasquad game four days ago), was his best of the spring. "I thought he had a better spring this year than he did last year," general manager Brian Cashman said of Chamberlain, whom the Yankees still see as a starter.

Chamberlain's velocity jumped in last year's postseason - he hit 97 mph several times - and Cashman expects the same this season. "He seems more amped and you can be, coming out of the pen," Cashman said. "You can just let it fly."

Hughes, on a pitch count of 75, started Friday night. He threw 71 pitches and allowed one run, two hits and four walks in three-plus innings, striking out five and throwing two wild pitches in the Yankees' 3-0 loss.

Notes & quotes: Righthanded-hitting outfielder Marcus Thames, who has struggled this spring (batting .094 going into Friday) and has been kept because of his past success against lefthanders, singled in the first inning against LHP Jamie Moyer . . . Former East Hampton star Ross Gload singled off Hughes in the second . . . Mariano Rivera pitched a 1-2-3 sixth inning.

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