TAMPA, Fla. — Joba Chamberlain hobbled to a chair, put down his crutches and soon made a pronouncement: He expects to pitch in the majors this season.
Despite a trampoline accident that dislocated his right ankle and put him in a cast for six weeks, the New York Yankees reliever remained confident he would be back.
“Obviously there’s a lot of things that are going to have to happen before that, but what we’ve been told there’s a great chance it’s going to happen,” Chamberlain said Tuesday.
Chamberlain spoke at the Yankees’ spring training complex five days after the injury. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said there is no official timeframe for his return.
“No one can tell you whether he’ll pitch this year,” Cashman said. “There’s a chance he can. There’s a chance he might not. Is this something that can be a real issue for him going forward? Yes. I’m optimistic that the best-case scenario will work out and he’ll pitch again this year, but that’s my heart and gut. I don’t have anything else go to on.”
The 26-year-old righty says he didn’t break any bones and has been free of infection. It was a bloody injury, but Chamberlain and Cashman both said it was never a life-threatening situation.
Chamberlain was hurt Thursday playing with his 5-year-old son at a Tampa-area recreation spot.
“I felt like let I my team down, to be perfectly honest with you, and that’s the most frustrating part,” he said.
The burly pitcher briefly choked up when talking about his son.
“I will never question being a father. This game is very important to me, it’s allowed me to do a lot of things, but my son is my pride and enjoy. Never question being a father,” he said.
“I’m never going to look at anything I do with my son as reckless. Obviously, I’m not going to skydive with my son. But when it comes along those lines, you can look at anything, throwing him around in the pool,” Chamberlain said. “There’s a certain element of accidents in everyday life.”
Chamberlain was in camp this spring working his way back from elbow ligament replacement surgery last year. He had been expected to return in June or July before his accident.
Chamberlain arrived at his news conference in a golf cart, wearing sweat pants and a T-shirt.
“His spirits seem to be picking up a little bit,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “He’s extremely disappointed. He had said to me, ‘I felt I kind of let you down.’ I just said, ‘Hey, we’re going to get you back out there.’ My heart still goes out to him because of what he’s went through the last 10 months and how hard he’s worked. Sometimes you can learn a lot about yourself from things like is.”
Chamberlain’s son was not hurt. The boy began kindergarten last year and Chamberlain often tweets about how proud he is of his son’s hockey interest.
“Actually, I think my son is the best (handling it) out of everybody,” Chamberlain said. “One of the nurses came in, a new one and asked what happened and before I can get anything out, he said, ‘My dad got hosed by a trampoline.’ He was fine. He asked a lot of questions.”
Chamberlain had surgery on the ankle Thursday, and was released from the hospital Sunday.
In January, Chamberlain agreed to a one-year contract for $1,675,000, up from $1.4 million last year. The deal was not guaranteed.
Cashman said he hasn’t thought about whether Chamberlain’s injury was an unacceptable off-the-field situation.
Chamberlain went 2-0 with a 2.83 ERA in 27 relief appearances last season before the surgery last June
Chamberlain burst upon the scene in 2007 as a late-season star out of the bullpen. The Yankees later put in place the “Joba Rules” to protect his arm from overuse.
“I wish I wasn’t in this situation,” he said. “Everything in my life has happened for a reason. I had a calmness when it happened, that this happened for a reason.”