I’m sure that headline elicited the standard three Joba responses. Some thinking “Yes! Finally!” while others saying “Been there, done that” and the vast majority of readers thinking “Not THIS topic AGAIN”. I can assure you that what follows isn’t a rehashing of the debate we all grew weary of from a few years back. What I’m arguing for here is something different. I think it makes sense for the Yanks to send Joba down to AAA sometime in April or May and let him pitch his rehab as a starter, whether they plan on using him as one at the MLB level or not.
When a pitcher is coming back from Tommy John surgery, its often been said that velocity comes back first, while command is the last thing to return. In most cases they need a certain number of innings under their belt to get that command back. Letting Joba take a turn every 5 days as a starter will allow him to amass those innings more quickly, which should allow him to return to peak form faster. By having him stretched out, it will also provide the team a measure of insurance in case of injury or ineffectiveness by a member of the starting staff. If he performs well and the velocity is there, he could up his trade value in a midseason deal, where a team may view him as a starter and be willing to give up more for him as a result. These are rehab starts we’re talking about. There’s really no downside to this whatsoever, other than starting a bit of media controversy. I trust that the Yanks aren’t avoiding decisions that are beneficial to the franchise based on what Joel Sherman and Wally Matthews will say about it.
The main reason why Joba was lifted from the rotation had to do with the way his stuff declined after the shoulder injury on that hot August night in Texas. Brian Cashman said so himself, citing how his stuff wasn’t as sharp post injury and what he had left played up in the bullpen. I have long argued that we need to see that 96-100 MPH heat again before considering a shift back to the rotation. In his salad days of 07-08 Joba was always more about challenging hitters with raw stuff than he was about having precise command, which was a weakness in his game going back to his early scouting reports. But now it makes sense to do it even if the stuff isn’t back to where it was. Rather than have him log some of those innings he’ll need to get all the way back from TJS at the MLB level, let him do so in the minors. It won’t affect anyone on the AAA staff other than perhaps DJ Mitchell, who most prospect watchers view as a bullpen arm anyway should he pitch for the Yankees at the MLB level. Allowing him to rehab as a starter keeps all of your options open, he can always go right back into the bullpen once he’s ready to be called up. Or maybe….