Everyone in New York is sick to death about the hand-wringing surrounding everything related to Joba Chamberlain, but thanks to his ongoing struggles there may not be an end in sight. The Yankees have tried everything in their power to squeeze innings out of Chamberlain without overtaxing his right arm, but the end result remains that he looks nothing like a guy you'd trust in an October start and there's very little time to try anything else.
So, if Chamberlain has reached a breaking point, what do the Yankees do to fill his starts? Rob Neyer of ESPN, who is firmly in the Joba should be a starter camp, throws out the idea of moving him to the pen and using the rest of September to stretch out Phil Hughes so he can start come the playoffs. There are crazier ideas, but the risk of Chamberlain being just as ineffective out of the pen means you'd potentially be weakening two spots at exactly the wrong time of the season.
A better option might be to use Alfredo Aceves as a fourth starter with the full bullpen behind him in case he gets into trouble. Regardless of who is in the four-slot, the Yankees aren't going to win unless they get strong starts from CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte which means they can afford to think about Aceves as a starter while leaving long relief in the not particularly capable hands of Chad Gaudin and Sergio Mitre.
It's not a particularly exciting prospect, but the Yankees need to have a plan in place that doesn't include Chamberlain starting games in the postseason. Maybe they don't implement it, but that's the reason plans exist in the first place.
The most interesting thing about the Hughes/Joba flop suggestion is the way it justifies both sides of the eternal Chamberlain debate. Hughes has pitched wonderfully out of the bullpen, but he hasn't pitched very much or had as much impact as it would seem because of the vagaries of reliever usage patterns. That's exactly why the Yankees are wise to use Chamberlain as a starter, but his performance, particularly his fatigue, is why so many people still persist in the argument against having him in the rotation.
Round and round we go, and where Joba will end up we still don't know.