Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain runs sprints during spring training in...

Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain runs sprints during spring training in Tampa, Fla. (Feb. 16, 2011) Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

TAMPA, Fla. - CC Sabathia's weight loss was a major topic of Day 1 of camp Monday as the Yankees' ace openly discussed how a big guy got smaller.

Joba Chamberlain is a big guy who got bigger in the offseason and he shut down conversation on the topic Wednesdaythe way Sabathia did on his opt-out clause.

"This is the last time I'm going to answer this question," Chamberlain said evenly. "I know you guys have to ask it. I feel great. I'm stronger, physically. I'm better in my bullpens, right where I was at the end of last year."

General manager Brian Cashman all but repeated word for word his responses to Newsday on Tuesday when first asked about Chamberlain's weight, listed at 230 in last season's postseason media guide but more than that now, as all involved admit.

"He's obviously heavier," Cashman said. "That's as much as I'll say."

Is one of the goals to have him lighter by the end of camp?

"He's heavier and we'll just leave it at that," Cashman said.

Cashman then smiled wearily and made what likely was a reference to his taken-out-of-context comments regarding Derek Jeter and centerfield, remarks made at a breakfast with fans several weeks ago.

"I find myself . . . I gotta be careful nowadays with how I say anything," he said. "I want to let the other teams get on the back page."

It should be made clear that, regardless of the Joba-the-Hut puns certain to come, Chamberlain is hardly corpulent. He said early last week shortly after arriving in Tampa to work out at the team's minor-league complex that he added muscle in the offseason, the result of putting a gym in his Nebraska home.

"I would probably say I'm in better shape than I have been in a couple of years," Chamberlain said.

Manager Joe Girardi, while saying every player is given a suggested weight in which to show up to camp and not answering whether Chamberlain checked in at his, stressed several times the righthander hasn't appeared out of shape.

"He's done fine," Girardi said. "He's moved fine. He's had no issues."

Chamberlain has thrown his normal amount of bullpens and looked good.

"He looks better throwing bullpens now than he did last year," Girardi said. "That's encouraging for us. He wouldn't be able to do the running he's doing if he didn't work out and he wouldn't be throwing the baseball like he is if he didn't work out."

But at the same time, the way the topic - and the pitcher's specific poundage when he weighed in - has been treated like something with "Classified" stamped on it, indicates the organization isn't entirely pleased.

And the Yankees, by allowing for plenty of reading between the lines with their non-answers about his weight gain, very well could be trying to light a fire under Chamberlain, who has minor-league options and whom Cashman and Girardi have both said will have to earn his roster spot this spring.

Cashman said he's confident Chamberlain will build on last year, when a few bad outings - five in which he gave up a total of 18 runs (17 earned) in three innings - contributed to a 4.40 ERA.

"We have a chance to have a tremendous bullpen and he's one of the reasons for it," Cashman said.

The GM added: "He's a good kid. He does work hard, his bullpens look fantastic but, yeah, he's heavy . . . we'll just leave it at that right now. Anything else we'll deal with ourselves and between each other, and certainly not in the public arena."

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