If there is one person who can relate to the early success of Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin, it might be Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain.
Four and a half years before “Linsanity” at Madison Square Garden, there was “Joba Mania” in the Bronx. Upon his Aug. 2007 debut as a reliever, Yankee fans were sporting “Joba Rules” T-shirts and they had little to do with the innings limits or other restrictions placed upon him.
“If there’s anybody that can kind of understand where he’s coming from it’s me and I’m proud of him,” Chamberlain said during an interview with WFAN Tuesday.
Just like Lin has ruled the Garden with 109 points in his first four games as a starter, Chamberlain ruled the mound for a brief time in the summer 2007. The big difference was that Chamberlain was a hyped prospect while Lin was mostly unheralded and unknown before coming off the bench Feb. 4.
Just like the Knicks were struggling when they turned to Lin, the Yankees were experiencing some struggles when they promoted Chamberlain. Chamberlain made his debut on Aug. 7, 2007 when the Yankees were recovering from an awful first half that had them significantly under .500 and at .500 heading into the All-Star break.
In his debut, Chamberlain was throwing fastballs topped at 97 mph and his initial foray into the majors saw him strike out 34 and walk six in 19 appearances. During that two-month burst of power fastballs, Chamberlain pitched to a 0.38 ERA, had a 0.75 WHIP and held hitters to a .145 batting average in 24 innings.
Since then, Chamberlain has pitched in every inning, first as an inconsistent starter during 2008 and 2009 and then as a reliever. Chamberlain’s second stint as a relief pitcher has been stunted by last June’s “Tommy John” surgery but the 26-year-old righty seems headed for a successful recovery.
“Everything’s great,” he said. “I never felt better with my mechanics. It was a long year, but it was a great year for me. I learned a lot about my injury and what it takes to be successful.”
Chamberlain’s latest step in his recovery was throwing 20 pitches of a half mound. He said he is playing catch four times a week and will throw a bullpen Friday.
After that, he will throw from a full mound and continue to long toss. He said he has no doubt that he will return this season.
“Without a doubt,” he said. “There’s no doubt in my mind that I’m ready to pitch. I’ve got to go out and prove it everyday.”
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.