BOSTON - With one motion, Joba Chamberlain assured the Yankees of one thing: that he is back.
He vigorously pumped his right arm like a feisty, overgrown kid and reminded Yankees fans of just how special he can be in big-pressure situations.
It was the Joba of old; the Joba that once was as emotional as he was effective; the Joba who instilled as much passion into his setup role as he did fear in opposing batters.
He hurled his 96-mph fastball past the swinging bat of Red Sox third baseman Adrian Beltre to record the second out of the eighth inning, then quickly disposed of J.D. Drew in similar fashion to help preserve a one-run Yankees lead in their 6-4 victory.
With nine pitches he proved that the lightning rod of the Yankees bullpen hadn't been dimmed or eternally damaged by the constant inconsistency of the old "Joba Rules."
"I've had the fortunate advantage of kind of flip-flopping for four years now," Chamberlain said when asked about his transition from being a starter to reliever. " . . . It's not easy, but the fact that I've done it, I kind of have an idea. . . . The routine is familiar, but you have to change things from year to year to see what works."
It was Yankees manager Joe Girardi who challenged Chamberlain to become the eighth-inning guy. And last night, Chamberlain didn't disappoint.
"It's what we feel he can do," Girardi said. "We feel he can pitch at a very high level. We've seen it. And he did it tonight."
Chamberlain said he received some sage advice from John Smoltz, the future Hall of Fame pitcher who visited the Yankees clubhouse just before last night's game.
"That was probably one of the top five things I've ever gotten to do," said Chamberlain, who was an Atlanta Braves fan as a kid. "I tried not to be star-struck. But it was hard not to. For a man to take that time to help me and make me better as an individual, was pretty cool for me. To listen to him and try to take a little bit of what he did to make himself so successful was something that I found helped me.
"[He said] always trust your stuff and just create a game for yourself. Know what works for you, go out there, and get ready and have fun."
It seems Smoltz's 10-minute pep talk did the trick. After replacing Damaso Marte, who pitched one-third of an inning, Chamberlain recorded the two straight strikeouts.
"That's why you play the game - to be in big situations and play against the best," Chamberlain said.
Said Yankees catcher Jorge Posada: "For me, that attitude is different. As a reliever, I see Joba very, very strong like he was today. Very similar to 2007."