After another poor outing on Sunday, Joba Chamberlain's role came up for some debate. Joe Girardi told the press that if the Yankees were protecting a lead come the eighth inning on Monday, he would still turn to Chamberlain to protect it.
Whether Girardi said that in order to provide false hope to the Indians or his own pitcher is unclear, but what is clear is that the eighth inning role on the Yankees is no longer cut and dry. The Yankees took a 3-2 lead in the top of the frame on Curtis Granderson's third homer in the last two days and David Robertson and Boone Logan started warming up in the bullpen.
After Javier Vazquez started the bottom of the eighth with a walk, Robertson entered and got Asdrubal Cabrera to bounce into a double play. Then Logan got the call and struck out Shin-Soo Choo to end the inning. The ninth inning still belongs to Mariano Rivera, of course, and that meant it was another win for the good guys. After the game Girardi said that he was playing matchups and that no one should read anything into a change in the organization's thinking.
Forgive us if we think he protests too much. No one is going to argue with the idea that a manager should be fluid about what reliever to use in a given situation but Girardi's being a little evasive.
Robertson had never faced Cabrera before while the Indians shortstop was 0-for-5 with two strikeouts and two walks against Chamberlain. If those walks are problematic, then Choo's two walks in two appearances against Logan should have terrified Girardi far too much to contemplate using him. For a manager who has been devoted to keeping relievers in set roles, this had to be about Chamberlain struggling recently as much or more than it was about simply playing the percentages.
The good news for Joba is that the two pitchers who worked the eighth on Monday provide good lessons in the fungible nature of life as a reliever. Robertson was terrible for two months to start the season and Logan looked like he didn't belong in organized baseball, let alone the major leagues, but each of them rebounded to become key contributors to the relief corps.
Chamberlain still has time to make the same kind of turnaround, with Monday night serving as notice that it is high time to see it happen.