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Joba's Rules: "Never question being a father"

By Scott Miller | Senior Baseball Columnist
TAMPA -- The one thing that was crystal clear from Joba Chamberlain's first public appearance since the trampoline accident is that he will not be pitching anytime soon.

Other than, with his baseball career on hold, Chamberlain ought to be in line for a pretty good haul on Father's Day.

He's on crutches, his right ankle encased in a splint. There is no question that will delay some of his rehabilitation from Tommy John ligament transfer surgery, though he thinks there is a "great" chance he will pitch yet this year.

While the Yankees would like to believe that, there realistically is no way to know yet. He suffered an "open dislocation of the sub talar joint, a highly rare injury that, according to orthopedicsurgeons.blogspot.com, accounts for approximately only 1 to 2 percent of all joint dislocations.

"No one can tell you whether he'll pitch this year or not, yet," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said during the first inning of the Yankees Grapefruit League game with Toronto on Tuesday night. "There's a chance he can, and there's a chance he might not. ...

"Could he be back as soon as this year? Yes. Could he be back next year? Yes. Is this something that could be a real issue going forward if he never gets back? Yes.

"I'm optimistic that he'll pitch this year for us. But that's just my heart and my gut. I don't have anything else to go on. ... This is a guy who was throwing with a ligament snapped and was throwing 95 m.p.h."

While Chamberlain's explanations were convoluted at times, Cashman confirmed that the "skin was compromised" in the open dislocation, leaving the pitcher's heel sticking out through the skin, exposing the bone.

There was no compound fracture. No bones were broken.

Chamberlain is upset with some of the reports he heard and read.

"I didn't lose a lot of blood," Chamberlain, 26, said. "It wasn't life-threatening."

"I wish I wasn't in this situation," he said. "But it's one of those things that happens where you have to take from it and continue to grow."

Though the Yankees privately are livid that Chamberlain would place himself in a situation in which he could be injured this way, the pitcher emotionally insisted that he did nothing wrong, did not act recklessly and had learned one very clear thing from the incident.

"Never question being a father," he said. "I felt like I let my team down to be perfectly honest with you, and that's the most frustrating part. When I look back and realize what was going on ... I will never question being a father."

Here, Chamberlain, choked up, paused for several seconds to compose himself.

"I think that's the biggest thing," Chamberlain said. "Just to know, this game is very important to me. It allows me to do a lot of things.

"But my son is my pride and joy. I think that was the biggest thing: Don't be so hard on yourself and realize what you're doing to try to be a good dad."

Chamberlain confirmed that he had taken his son, Karter, 5, to a family amusement center in which you enter an area in which several rectangular trampolines are together so that it's "like a bed of trampolines, a whole platform." He said he and his son and a man who was with them were the only three people in the whole place.

The way he explained his injury, he did not fall off of a trampoline -- which also runs contrary to what had become common belief.

"It was just me and [Karter] in the whole place bouncing back and forth from one [trampoline] to the other," Chamberlain said. "I went to take off and I felt it. I went to grab my leg and I was like, 'Oh, man.' Karter looked at it and went 'ugh' and kind of took off."

As an employee called 911 and Chamberlain awaited paramedics, he said, "there was blood. But it's not like it was squirting and spewing."

Though Chamberlain and trampolines will be linked from here on out, he does not think he used poor judgment. He noted that a guy can get injured all sorts of ways playing with his son, such as tossing him around in the pool or even pitching batting practice to him.

"Obviously, I'm not going to sky dive with my son," he said.

There was no infection, Chamberlain said, and noted that one humorous moment came when he was in the hospital, Karter was in his room and a nurse stopped by and asked what happened.

"Man, my dad got owned by a trampoline," Chamberlain said his son quipped.

Under the heading of "looking for the positives", Chamberlain said the ankle injury can be a positive in his recovery from elbow surgery.

"It's going to give me more time to rehab," he said. "It's going to allow me to continue my shoulder strengthening and everything that goes along with that. It will put me past that year mark of June. It will be stronger for that and I think that's a positive."

As for whether he'll be able to pitch at some point later this season, he said: "I think there is a great chance that it's definitely going to happen."

Said Cashman: "I'm hearing from doctors that this is an unknown. If everything goes right, he'll be back with us pitching. If everything doesn't, there are other alternatives that aren't as pretty."

The incident is one more chapter to one of the more colorful and checkered starts to a big-league career in our time. Chamberlain's debut was a smash in the Yankees' bullpen in 2007, and he was on the mound in Cleveland during Game 2 of an AL Division Series that year when the midges famously swarmed in from Lake Erie.

He was ticketed for the rotation eventually, and the Yankees strictly enforced the "Joba Rules" in 2008 to protect the health of his arm. His shift to the rotation never took, he's been stricken with appendicitis and then the elbow surgery.

In five seasons, he's 20-13 with a 3.70 ERA and four saves. He last pitched last June 5.

"Just another thing in the book of Joba that's just kind of continued to grow," Chamberlain said. "Just add another chapter.

"Hopefully there are a couple of more chapters on the good side."


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