New York Yankees reliever Joba Chamberlain has a long road to recovery ahead after suffering an "open dislocation" of his ankle Thursday, an injury which caused him to lose a life-threatening amount of blood. The Yankees confirmed Saturday that Chamberlain did suffer the injury while playing on a trampoline with his son.
Already recovering from Tommy John surgery, Chamberlain was expected to miss half the season anyway. How long Chamberlain will be out now is anyone's guess, and the Yankees have acknowledged that they really do not know at this point if the injury is career-threatening. Given the evidence it would seem highly unlikely the 26-year-old Chamberlain will pitch in the big leagues in 2012.
So, the question is how much will the Yankees really miss him this season?
Before his 2011 season ended with the Tommy John surgery, Chamberlain had been surpassed in the Yankees bullpen hierarchy by both free-agent acquisition Rafael Soriano and David Robertson. Chamberlain, however, was pitching well. He had a 2.83 ERA in 27 games, a 1.047 WHIP and was surrendering only 7.2 hits per nine innings pitched. His ERA + was 158. All of those numbers were Chamberlain's best since 2008, his first full major-league season.
Chamberlain would likely have pitched some important innings for the Yankees the second half of the season. Soriano had an up-and-down first season in the Bronx and has a history of elbow issues. Robertson can't be expected to pitch to a 1.08 ERA again. Cory Wade and lefties Boone Logan and Clay Rapada are, truthfully, journeyman. So, there would have been a role for Chamberlain during the latter part of the season -- possibly an important one. The Yankees will have to find other pitchers to supplement what they already have in place.
What will the future hold for Chamberlain? No one knows at this point. The stardom he seemed destined for when he arrived in 2007, pitching to a 0.38 ERA in 19 games as a 21-year-old reliever seems like a long, long time ago. Chamberlain and the Yankees can only hope that at this point he is able to return to be a useful major-league pitcher.
This is really not how it was supposed to be for Chamberlain and the Yankees. It is, though, another reminder that a meteoric rise to stardom like the one Chamberlain experienced is no guarantee of long-term success.