Joba Chamberlain

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Joba Chamberlain
Joba Chamberlain 2014.jpg
Chamberlain with the Detroit Tigers
Kansas City Royals – No. 62
Born: (1985-09-23) September 23, 1985 (age 30)
Lincoln, Nebraska
Bats: Right Throws: Right
MLB debut
August 7, 2007 for the New York Yankees
MLB statistics
(through July 2, 2015)
Win–loss record 25–21
Earned run average 3.82
Strikeouts 520
WHIP 1.38
Career highlights and awards

Justin Louis "Joba" Chamberlain (/ˈɒbə/ JOB; born Justin Louis Heath; September 23, 1985) is an American professional baseball pitcher for the Kansas City Royals of Major League Baseball (MLB). He has also played in MLB for the New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers.

Chamberlain played college baseball for the Nebraska Cornhuskers before the Yankees selected him in the first round of the 2006 MLB Draft. He ascended through the minor leagues and made his MLB debut in 2007 as a relief pitcher during the Yankees' pursuit of a berth in the MLB postseason. The Yankees adhered to what became known as the "Joba Rules," where they carefully monitored and limited his appearances. During the 2008 season, the Yankees transitioned Chamberlain to the starting rotation, and he suffered a shoulder injury later in the season. Chamberlain struggled as a starter in 2009, and was shifted back to a relief role. He signed as a free agent with the Tigers before the 2014 season, and re-signed with the Tigers for 2015, but was released during the season. He returned to MLB later in 2015 with Kansas City.

Early life[edit]

Chamberlain was born as Justin Louis Heath on September 25, 1983.[1][2] He grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska.[3] Chamberlain's parents, Harlan Chamberlain and Jackie Standley, were never married and split up when Joba was 18 months old. Some sources say that Harlan Chamberlain obtained full custody of Joba when he was 3 years old,[4] but Standley claims that Joba lived with her most of the time until he was 10 when she had his surname legally changed from Heath, her maiden name, to Chamberlain. Standley began abusing drugs when Joba was 4 or 5 and says that she and Joba currently speak to each other only rarely.[2]

Chamberlain's father was born on the Winnebago Indian Reservation, but had to leave to be treated for polio.[5] Chamberlain still has family living on Native American reservations.[6] As of 2014, he was one of only three active non-Hispanic Native American players in Major League Baseball, with the others being Kyle Lohse of the Milwaukee Brewers and Jacoby Ellsbury of the New York Yankees.[7]

When Joba (then Justin) was a little boy, his two-year-old cousin was unable to pronounce her brother (Joba's other cousin) Joshua's name correctly, pronouncing it as Joba instead. Harlan Chamberlain heard this and liked the nickname, so he began referring to Justin (instead of cousin Joshua) as Joba. Harlan said the name was "dynamic." Joba agreed, and eventually had his name legally changed.[8]

Joba served as a ball boy and bat boy for Lincoln Northeast High School's state championship baseball team, and eventually graduated from Northeast. He did not jump straight to college; to help pay the bills, Joba briefly worked for the city of Lincoln's maintenance department.[5][9]

Amateur baseball career[edit]

High school[edit]

Chamberlain played American Legion Baseball over the summer of 2004 for Coach Steve Eckman, going 4–4 with a 1.36 earned run average (ERA), as he struck out 137 hitters and walked only 21 en route to all-state honors. He recorded 21 strikeouts over 12 shutout innings in a matchup against future fellow Nebraska star Johnny Dorn’s team, a 15-inning game won by Grand Island, 1–0. He also hit .505 with 11 homers, 11 doubles and 37 RBIs as a two-way performer. At Lincoln Northeast High School for coaches Bill Fagler and Doug Kaltenberger he garnered second-team Super State honors from the Lincoln Journal Star, going 3–2 with a 3.35 ERA, as he struck out 29 in 31.1 innings as a senior.[10]


Chamberlain started his college career playing for the University of Nebraska-Kearney Lopers under coach Damon Day, leading the team in ERA (5.23), opponents' batting average (.250), strikeouts (49), and complete games (4) in just 8 starts as a freshman, before transferring to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He helped the Cornhuskers reach the 2005 College World Series, and helped lead Nebraska to its first College World Series win. He had a 10–2 won/loss record with a 2.81 ERA for the year, and his 2005 stats included 5 double-digit strikeout games. Triceps tendinitis limited his 2006 season but he still pitched in 14 games, posting a 6–5 record with a 3.93 ERA and 102 strikeouts in 89.1 innings.[10]

During the 2004-2005 college off-season Chamberlain pitched for the Nebraska Bruins of the National Baseball Congress. He started six games in 2005, recording a 5–0 record and a 1.59 ERA.[11]

Professional baseball career[edit]

Minor leagues[edit]

Chamberlain was drafted 41st overall by the New York Yankees in the 2006 Major League Baseball Draft; the Yankees received that draft pick as free agent compensation for Tom Gordon, who signed with the Philadelphia Phillies. Chamberlain did not pitch in the organized minors during the 2006 season, but pitched in the winter league in Hawaii, posting a 2.63 ERA for the West Oahu CaneFires.[12]

Before the 2007 season, Baseball America ranked Chamberlain as the 4th-best prospect in the pitching-rich Yankee organization, and the 75th-best prospect in Major League Baseball, and ranked his fastball as the best in the Yankee farm system.

He spent the first part of his 2007 season on the Single-A Advanced Tampa Yankees in the Florida State League. He went 4–0 with a 2.03 ERA in 7 games, and had 51 strikeouts and 11 walks. He was then promoted to the Double-A Trenton Thunder in the Eastern League, where he was 4–2 in 7 games with a 3.43 ERA and 64 strikeouts. He was named to the U.S. Team in the 2007 All-Star Futures Game July 8 at AT&T Park. Chamberlain pitched the third inning, striking out one, walking one, and allowing a hit and an earned run.[13] On July 24, 2007, Chamberlain was promoted to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and made his first start the next day, striking out 10 in 5 innings and earning his first Triple-A victory. While the Yankees still saw him as a starter in the future, the team announced on July 29, 2007, that Chamberlain would be moved to the Scranton-Wilkes Barre bullpen, and he made his first appearance the next day, striking out the side in 1 inning pitched and hitting 100 on the radar gun three times. On August 1, Joba went back to Trenton to make a relief appearance, striking out 2 batters in a 1–2–3 8th inning. He then came back to Scranton, pitching 2 innings and striking out 5 batters.[14][15]

New York Yankees[edit]


On August 7, 2007, the Yankees purchased Chamberlain's contract, elevating him to the major leagues for the first time in his career.[16][17] In his debut, a Yankees victory over the Toronto Blue Jays, Chamberlain struck out the first batter he faced and went on to pitch two scoreless innings, striking out two.[citation needed] Chamberlain's usage in games was initially restricted by what were referred to as the "Joba Rules," which prevented him from pitching on consecutive days and gave him an additional day of rest for each inning pitched in an outing.[18] On August 30, 2007, during a game against the Boston Red Sox, Chamberlain threw two pitches over the head of Kevin Youkilis. Chamberlain was subsequently ejected for the first time in his Major League career. The next day, Chamberlain was sentenced to a two-game suspension and a $1,000 fine.[19]

In Game 2 of the 2007 ALDS against the Cleveland Indians, Chamberlain was pitching in the bottom of the eighth with the Yankees leading 1–0. Suddenly, a host of small insects swarmed the field.[20] He was repeatedly sprayed down with insect repellent, which had no apparent deterrent effect on the midges. Chamberlain threw 2 wild pitches, yielding the tying run. The Indians went on to win the game 2–1. The Yankees would then lose the Division Series against the Indians in 4 games in the best-of-five series.[21]

Chamberlain during 2008 spring training

On March 20, 2008, the Yankees announced that Chamberlain would start the season in the bullpen. Manager Joe Girardi stated that Chamberlain would be used 'without restrictions' but that the team's use of Chamberlain would be guided by common sense.[22]

Chamberlain was granted a leave of absence on April 13, 2008, when he received news that his father, Harlan, was in the hospital after collapsing at his home in Lincoln, Nebraska.[23] At the time of his leave, Joba had a record of 1–0, with a 0.00 ERA, six strikeouts, and 3 holds in 4 games and 513 innings pitched. Chamberlain returned from the bereavement in time for the 2nd game against the Baltimore Orioles on April 19, 2008. On April 20, Hank Steinbrenner announced that he wanted Chamberlain to be moved into the rotation.[24]

In May, Girardi announced Chamberlain was being transitioned into the starting rotation. On June 3, Chamberlain made his first MLB start against Roy Halladay and the Toronto Blue Jays lasting only 213 innings while allowing 2 runs, a hit and 4 walks. On June 25, Chamberlain earned his first career win as a starter, throwing 623 scoreless innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates, en route to a 10–0 Yankees victory.[25]

On July 25, Chamberlain threw 7 shutout innings against the Red Sox, outdueling Red Sox ace Josh Beckett, allowing only 3 hits and striking out 9. The Yankees won the game 1–0.[26]

On August 4, Chamberlain injured his shoulder in a game against the Texas Rangers and was placed on the 15-day disabled list with rotator cuff tendinitis.[27] Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman later acknowledged that this injury had a lasting effect.[28]

Chamberlain ended the season with a 3–1 record and eight no-decisions.[29]


Chamberlain during the 2009 ALCS

Chamberlain learned about his role in the Yankees rotation in November, and stated that knowing about the team's plans to use him as a starter rather than as a reliever who would move into a starting role at some point in the middle of the season (as was the case in 2008) changes his mental approach to preparing for the season, and makes things easier on him.[30] During the All-Star break, Chamberlain went back home to Lincoln, Nebraska to get his mind off things by playing with his son so he could "be himself" and get more confidence on the mound.[31] Chamberlain continued to struggle in the second half of the season. The Yankees considered demoting him to the minor leagues and leaving him off of the postseason roster,[32] but the Yankees kept Chamberlain on the roster in a set-up role as the Yankees went with a three-man starting rotation en route to winning the 2009 World Series.

Heading into the new season, before Spring Training Yankees Manager Joe Girardi had declared that there would be competition for the 5th spot in the Yankees starting rotation. The favorites were most notably Chamberlain and Phil Hughes. Towards the end of Spring Training, Hughes was declared the winner, which sent Chamberlain back to the bullpen.[33] From the start of the season through July Chamberlain struggled, with an ERA over 5. His performance improved in August and September; in Chamberlain's last 28 appearances of the 2010 regular season, his ERA was 2.38.[34]

The Yankees ruled out using Chamberlain as a starting pitcher in 2011[35] arguing that his pitches have greater velocity when he pitches in relief.[36] At the beginning of the season, he was moved to the seventh-inning role to accommodate Rafael Soriano. He would later become the set-up man to Mariano Rivera briefly after Soriano went on the disabled list. Chamberlain was placed on the 15 day-disabled list on June 8 due to an elbow injury. He had Tommy John surgery performed on June 16 to repair a torn ligament in his right elbow and was knocked out for the rest of the season.[37]

In January 2012 the Yankees and Chamberlain agreed on a 1-year, non-guaranteed contract worth approximately $1.675 million.[citation needed] On March 22, 2012, Chamberlain injured his right leg while bouncing on a trampoline in a Tampa jump center;[38] he suffered an open dislocation of his ankle. Initial reports indicated that he had lost so much blood that onlookers at the scene feared that he might bleed to death.[39][40] Chamberlain, however, later discredited these accusations during a press conference stating that he never suffered any life-threatening injury nor did he lose much blood.[citation needed] Chamberlain began the 2012 season on the 60-day disabled list due to the ankle injury, and he was recovering from the Tommy John surgery he had previously. He returned on August 1, 2012, against the Baltimore Orioles.

In the top 12th inning of Game 4 of the 2012 American League Division Series, Chamberlain was struck on the elbow by a broken bat by Matt Wieters of the Orioles and left the game. Despite his injury, the Yankees won the series over Baltimore in five games, but were swept in the 2012 American League Championship Series by the Detroit Tigers.

On May 2, 2013, Chamberlain was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a right oblique strain.[41] He was activated from the DL on May 28, 2013.

On September 5, 2013, Chamberlain was ejected for the second time in his major league career in a 9–8 Yankees loss against the Red Sox. With Jacoby Ellsbury on second after a stolen base and Shane Victorino at the plate with one out in the 10th inning, Victorino attempted to check his swing on a 1-2 pitch and first base umpire Joe West said Victorino did not swing, Victorino then singled in the go-ahead run on the very next pitch, Chamberlain was then ejected by West for arguing the check swing call after being removed from the game.[42]

Detroit Tigers[edit]


On December 13, 2013, the Tigers signed Chamberlain to a one-year contract, worth $2.5 million plus incentives.[43] Chamberlain began the year as the Tigers' set-up man. Chamberlain earned a save on April 22, 2014, in a 8–6 win over the Chicago White Sox, which was only the 6th of his career. Chamberlain was given the save opportunity after Phil Coke was handed an 8–3 lead and surrendered three runs, while closer Joe Nathan was given rest due to recent struggles. Chamberlain finished the 2014 season with a 2–5 record and a 3.57 ERA, allowing 57 hits in 63 innings with 24 walks and 59 strikeouts.

On February 24, 2015, the Tigers re-signed Chamberlain to one-year, $1 million contract plus incentives.[44][45] He had a 1.26 ERA through May, but his ERA increased to 4.09 in his next ten appearances. He allowed nine runs, eight earned, on 14 hits over 723 innings since June 1. He was designated for assignment by the Tigers on July 3.[46][47] On July 10, 2015, Chamberlain was given his unconditional release.[48]

Toronto Blue Jays[edit]

On July 21, 2015, Chamberlain signed a minor league contract with the Toronto Blue Jays.[49] He was assigned to the Buffalo Bisons of the International League.[50] Chamberlain exercised an opt-out in his contract on August 14, and became a free agent.[51]

Kansas City Royals[edit]

On August 16, 2015, Chamberlain signed a minor league contract with the Kansas City Royals.[52] After pitching in eight games for the Omaha Storm Chasers of the Class AAA Pacific Coast League, the Royals promoted Chamberlain to the major leagues on September 7.[53]

Pitching repertoire[edit]

Joba throws a four-seam fastball that early in his career was regularly in the mid-to-upper 90s, topping out at 101 mph. Since his arm surgery, his fastball is in the 93-94 mph range, topping out around 97-98. He also throws a slider anywhere from 82 to 88 mph, a curveball at 78–81 mph, and an occasional changeup at 83–85 mph.[54]

Personal life[edit]

Chamberlain has one son, Karter.[5] Chamberlain made an appearance in the season 2 episode 15 episode of Man v. Food which airs on the Travel Channel. The episode was filmed in Brooklyn and featured Chamberlain coaching host Adam Richman through an eating challenge.

DUI conviction[edit]

On October 18, 2008, at 1:00 a.m. Chamberlain was arrested near Lincoln for suspicion of driving under the influence, speeding, and having an open container of alcohol in his vehicle. A Nebraska State Patrol spokesperson said Chamberlain was stopped for speeding on U.S. Route 77 near Lincoln.[55][56] His arrest was captured on police video, which later aired on the "Drivers 13" episode of truTV Presents: World's Dumbest....[57] His arraignment was postponed four times: in December 2008, January 2009, and twice in March 2009, all by Chamberlain's request.[58][59][60] He pled guilty to drunk driving and was sentenced to probation on April 1, 2009.[61]


  • 2005 3rd Team All-American
  • 2005 1st Team All Big 12
  • 2005 Big 12 Newcomer Pitcher of the Year
  • 2005 2nd Team All Midwest Region
  • 2005 Big 12 Pitcher of the Week (2005-03-01)
  • 2005 National Pitcher of the Week (2005-01-03)
  • 2005 Big 12 Pitcher of the Week (2005-04-25)
  • 2006 1st Team Preseason All-American
  • 2006 Hawaiian Winter Post-Season All-Star
  • 2007 FSL Pitcher of the Week (2007-05-14)
  • 2007 FSL Pitcher of the Week (2007-05-28)
  • 2007 EL Pitcher of the Week (2007-06-18)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Official Player Profile on
  2. ^ a b Kenney, Colleen (September 14, 2008). "Out of the shadows: The story of Joba Chamberlain's mother". Lincoln Journal Star. Retrieved February 25, 2015. 
  3. ^ "What Love's Got to Do with It". October 3, 2007. Retrieved July 19, 2010. [dead link]
  4. ^ "Nothing is insurmountable – Omaha World-Herald". Retrieved July 19, 2010. 
  5. ^ a b c "Joba The Hot – New York Post". June 24, 2007. Retrieved July 19, 2010. [dead link]
  6. ^ "Serby'S Sunday Q&A With...Joba Chamberlain". August 5, 2007. Retrieved July 19, 2010. [dead link]
  7. ^ Mallozzi, Vincent M. (June 8, 2008). "The American Indians of America's Pastime". The New York Times. 
  8. ^ Kepner, Tyler (August 8, 2007). "The Joba Chamberlain Era Begins". Retrieved July 19, 2010. 
  9. ^ "Young guns aim for the Bronx – Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees:News". Retrieved July 19, 2010. 
  10. ^ a b "Bio". September 23, 1985. Retrieved July 19, 2010. 
  11. ^ "2008 NBC Graduate of the Year Joba Chamberlain – – August 23, 2008". Retrieved July 19, 2010. 
  12. ^ "CaneFires 2006 Season Stats". November 22, 2006. Retrieved July 19, 2010. 
  13. ^ Castrovince, Anthony. "Futures spoils belong to the World". Retrieved July 19, 2010. 
  14. ^ "Chamberlain Back... For A Day". August 1, 2007. Retrieved July 19, 2010. 
  15. ^ "Minor League Stats". Retrieved July 19, 2010. 
  16. ^ "Sports Section". Retrieved July 19, 2010. 
  17. ^ Chisholm, Gregor (August 7, 2007). "Yanks call up Chamberlain". Retrieved July 19, 2010. 
  18. ^ King, George (August 30, 2007). "Bombers Plan To Amend Joba Rules". Retrieved July 19, 2010. 
  19. ^ Chamberlain Draws Boston’s Attention
  20. ^ Merkin, Scott (October 5, 2007). "Insects a nuisance at ALDS". Retrieved July 19, 2010. 
  21. ^ TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer Oct 5, 11:41 pm EDT. "Swat! Bugs bite Yankees, Indians win 2–1 on Hafner's RBI single in 11th for 2–0 playoff lead". Retrieved July 19, 2010. 
  22. ^ 2008 NBC Graduate of the Year Joba Chamberlain – NBC Baseball World Series – National Baseball Congress
  23. ^ Hoch, Bryan (April 14, 2008). "Joba leaves Yanks to be with father". Retrieved July 19, 2010. 
  24. ^ "Joba to return tonight". April 19, 2008. Retrieved July 19, 2010. 
  25. ^ wire reports (June 25, 2008). "Finally Joba's time: Yanks' Chamberlain notches first win as starter". Retrieved July 19, 2010. 
  26. ^ AP Photo (July 26, 2008). "Yankees morning after: Joba Chamberlain keeps Red Sox scoreless through seven in 1–0 Yanks win". Retrieved July 19, 2010. 
  27. ^ "Chamberlain placed on DL; Kennedy to start vs. Angels". ESPN. August 6, 2008. Retrieved August 6, 2008. 
  28. ^ "Brian Cashman is dropping some moderate-sized bombs this morning - HardballTalk". Retrieved July 4, 2015. 
  29. ^ Chuck, Bill. 100 random things about the Red Sox, Rays, and Yankees, The Boston Globe. Published April 2, 2009. Retrieved May 2, 2009.
  30. ^ "Joba visits MLB Network". MLB Advanced Media. January 27, 2009. 
  31. ^ Hoch, Bryan (July 23, 2009). "Joba has a different air about him". Retrieved July 19, 2010. 
  32. ^ Sherman, Joel (October 11, 2009). "Joba could spend part of 2010 in minors". Retrieved July 19, 2010. 
  33. ^ "Phil Hughes of New York Yankees named fifth starter – ESPN". March 26, 2010. Retrieved July 19, 2010. 
  34. ^ Shpigel, Ben (October 9, 2010). "Chamberlain's Role in Relief Still Diminished". The New York Times. Retrieved May 23, 2011. 
  35. ^ "Joba is not a starting pitching option for Yankees". Hot Stove. Retrieved July 4, 2015. 
  36. ^ "Rothschild will work with A.J. on fixes". Newsday. Retrieved July 4, 2015. 
  37. ^ "Joba Chamberlain likely done for year". ESPN. 
  38. ^ "Joba’s a pitcher of calm on 911 tape". NY Daily News (New York). March 27, 2012. Retrieved January 2, 2015. 
  39. ^ "Dislocating: Joba Chamberlain’s Ankle". Retrieved January 2, 2015. 
  40. ^ Mccarron, Anthony (March 23, 2012). "Yankees relief pitcher Joba Chamberlain dislocates ankle, loses life-threatening amount of blood, 2012 season and career may be over". Daily News (New York). 
  41. ^ "Oblique strain forces Joba to 15-day DL". 
  42. ^ "MLB Ejection 153: Joe West (3; Joba Chamberlain)." Close Call Sports and the Umpire Ejection Fantasy League. September 6, 2013.
  43. ^ Beck, Jason (December 12, 2013). "Tigers, Chamberlain agree to terms on one-year deal". Retrieved December 12, 2013. 
  44. ^ Beck, Jason (February 24, 2015). "Chamberlain returns to Tigers' bullpen on one-year deal". Retrieved February 24, 2015. 
  45. ^ McCosky, Chris (February 24, 2015). "Tigers bringing back Joba Chamberlain". Detroit News. Retrieved February 24, 2015. 
  46. ^ Anthony Fenech, Detroit Free Press (July 3, 2015). "Detroit Tigers dump Joba Chamberlain, Tom Gorzelanny and call up Avila". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved July 4, 2015. 
  47. ^ Beck, Jason (July 3, 2015). "Tigers DFA Joba, Gorzelanny in 'pen makeover". Retrieved July 3, 2015. 
  48. ^ Helfand, Betsy (July 10, 2015). "Tigers grant Joba unconditional release". Retrieved July 10, 2015. 
  49. ^ Davidi, Shi (July 21, 2015). "Blue Jays sign Chamberlain to minor-league deal". Sportsnet. Retrieved July 22, 2015. 
  50. ^ "Former New York Yankeees pitcher begins comeback against Syracuse Chiefs". Retrieved September 8, 2015. 
  51. ^ "Jays release P Chamberlain from contract". August 14, 2015. Retrieved August 14, 2015. 
  52. ^ McCullough, Andy (August 16, 2015). "Royals sign veteran pitchers Joba Chamberlain, Wandy Rodriguez to minor-league deals". Retrieved August 16, 2015. 
  53. ^ "Relief pitcher Joba Chamberlain arrives in Kansas City, reunited with Dave Eiland". kansascity. Retrieved September 8, 2015. 
  54. ^ "Joba Chamberlain PitchFX at". Retrieved April 21, 2014. 
  55. ^ "Yanks' Chamberlain held for DUI, speeding; formal charges due Monday". October 20, 2008. Retrieved July 19, 2010. 
  56. ^ "Chamberlain's DUI arraignment delayed". December 17, 2008. Retrieved July 19, 2010. 
  57. ^ truTV Presents: World's Dumbest: Season 6 Episodes on truTV
  58. ^ Delay in DUI Arraignment for Chamberlain, January 26, 2009
  59. ^ Chamberlain's DUI Arraignment Postponed Again, March 19, 2009
  60. ^ Chamberlain's Arraignment Postponed Yet Again ESPN, March 31, 2009
  61. ^ Chamberlain Pleads Guilty, April 1, 2009

External links[edit]