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Joba: All revved up and too often no place to go

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Joba Chamberlain juggles before Thursday night's game against the Royals.

Kansas City – By April 30 last season, reliever Joba Chamberlain had already made 12 appearances for the Tigers. He has appeared in exactly half that many games this season.

Before Thursday, he pitched in one game in the last six days. But he's hardly been idle.

"I feel like it's been about the same (work load)," Chamberlain said. "I just haven't been getting in."

Chamberlain has been summoned to start warming up in more than 12 of the Tigers' 22 games this season – he's just not gotten into the game.

"I don't like doing that to him, but he's been kind of the whipping boy down there," manager Brad Ausmus said. "It seems like close games in the bottom of the seventh or top of the eighth we are thinking about using him and something happens."

Case in point – Wednesday in Minnesota. The Tigers had a one-run lead in the eighth and left-hander Tom Gorzelanny gave up a one-out single. Ausmus was going to let Gorzelanny pitch to Chris Herrmann and have Chamberlain face right-handed hitter Shane Robinson.

Herrmann, though, hit into an inning-ending double play.

"It's happened to him a number of times," Ausmus said. "I keep track of how many times they get up in the pen. I don't like to get guys up and not use them. For some reason, the way the games have gone, Joba has seemed to take the brunt of it."

Chamberlain, though he craves some actual game work, isn't bothered by it.

"It's better than going five days without throwing at all," he said. "At least you get some adrenalin and get that going. You can't emulate the speed of the game in the bullpen, but other than that, it's nice to get your work in."

Chamberlain was asked if he felt like he was wasting his bullets in the bullpen.

"Yes and no," he said. "It's a little different than sitting for five days, getting up and just throwing a bullpen to get some work in. There's no adrenalin. You've got nothing going on. You know you're not getting ready to go in so you are not mentally getting ready."

That, Chamberlain said, can be counterproductive.

"The way it's gone, I've been up almost every game," he said. "Mentally I am preparing myself. Who am I going to face? What situation am I going into? Basically I am able to dictate what I am going to do in the game. So that is good. You are locked in mentally."

Warming up to pitch, Ausmus said, doesn't equate to an actual appearance in terms of stress. So, conceivably, Chamberlain could warm up three, four, five days in a row and still be available. But it's not the preferred regimen.

"Joba has been the whipping boy," Ausmus said. "I joke with him about it, but I am aware of it. I don't like doing it to him."

Chris McCosky on Twitter @cmccosky