Once the Yankees confirmed that Phil Hughes was their choice for the final spot in the starting rotation, it took about 14 seconds for people to start asking what they planned for Joba Chamberlain during the 2010 season. He's going to the bullpen, that much is clear, but you got very different answers about what he'd be doing out there depending on who you ask.
Here's Brian Cashman speaking to Anthony Rieber of Newsday (subscription required) and signaling that Joba will be ready to jump into a starting role if needed.
"He’s a starter in the bullpen. He can do both. He’s a starter who was just beaten out in the competition. That’s what we honestly believe, but we only had one spot."
Following that logic, if a second spot opened up Chamberlain would be under consideration to fill it. Someone forgot to tell that to pitching coach Dave Eiland, though. He went on the radio Thursday and said that he thought it was highly unlikely that Chamberlain would make any starts this season. What's more, Eiland also said that Chamberlain needs to earn a high-profile assignment in the bullpen.
If he isn't able to pull that off, they should send him to AAA where he can be a starter. Using Chamberlain as a long reliever on a team that already has Alfredo Aceves and Sergio Mitre would make absolutely no sense. The entire crux of the argument for Chamberlain as a starter, one that Cashman makes above, is that starting pitchers are more valuable than relievers. Relievers who pitch in high leverage situations, i.e. not long relievers, do have value and if Joba's in the big leagues he should be in that role.
A long relief role might do more to keep him in line for a spot start or promotion to the rotation if the situation called for it, but moving him to AAA would make managing his progress and keeping him in line much easier. This would be an awfully difficult sell to the fans, media and probably Chamberlain himself, but if the Yankees still believe he's a starting pitcher they should treat him as such.
Under the current circumstances, Chamberlain would have to transition back to a starting role next spring and he'd have to do it without ever having a full year as a starting pitcher under his belt. At some point that transition is going to stop making much sense for player and team and that point is a lot closer today than it was when Spring Training began.