Joba Chamberlain appeared a bit bemused. Wearing a suit with his black, Clark Kent glasses, a trim-looking Chamberlain showed up at the Marriott Marquis to receive the Bart Giamatti Award for compassion at the Baseball Assistance Team (BAT) dinner.
Chamberlain spoke about how he is ready for the season with his shoulder and his ankle 100 percent, going into his free agent year. He said that if the 43-year-old Mariano Rivera -- "God, forbid," in Chamberlain’s words -- can’t make it through the whole season, Chamberlain feels as though he could be a closer possibility.
And then, the little sidebar of the 2013 Yankees clubhouse came up. Major League Baseball once suspended Chamberlain for two games for throwing at Kevin Youkilis, who joined the Yankees this offseason. In 2012, Chamberlain hit Youkilis -- who had moved to the White Sox from the Red Sox -- but there was no incident.
Upon Youkilis’ signing with the team, Chamberlain got Youkilis’ number and left him a message, welcoming him to the Bronx. It has been more than a month and Chamberlain said he still hasn’t heard back from Youkilis.
"I did everything I can do," Chamberlain said. "I can’t control what Kevin Youkilis does. We’ll go on from there."
In his introductory press call, Youkilis played down any friction with Chamberlain, despite the head-hunting past.
"It is not a big deal to me," Youkilis said. "If it was that big a deal, I wouldn’t have been signing with the Yankees. But I don’t think it is that big of a deal. A lot of it is made out within the media and the fans."
Chamberlain said he wasn’t surprised that Youkilis did not call him back, joking, "I’m bound to run into him at some point. Sooner rather than later so we’ll see what happens." With a simple return call, Youkilis could have put an extinguisher to the situation, which will now linger until the spring.
By all appearances, Chamberlain has been the instigator for the past bad feelings between the two, but he took a conciliatory tone in reaching out to Youkilis.
"I am glad you are on our team," Chamberlain said he told Youkilis in the voicemail. "I’m glad you are on our side. I’m looking forward to seeing you
and, hopefully, you can win one over here for the good guys."
For the 27-year-old Chamberlain, 2013 is a big year, because he can become a free agent. Chamberlain is very confident he can fill part of the vacancy left by Rafael Soriano’s defection to Washington. If Rivera needs support, David Robertson would seem to have first crack at the role, but Chamberlain is not counting himself out.
QUESTION: Could Joba be the closer after Mo retires?