PHOENIX -- Joba Chamberlain faced hitters Wednesday for the first time in a Brewers uniform. After the final pitch of his live batting practice session, one of the hitters, outfield prospect Brett Phillips, approached the veteran reliever."You were trying to set us up the whole time, weren't you?" Phillips asked.Chamberlain's
PHOENIX -- Joba Chamberlain faced hitters Wednesday for the first time in a Brewers uniform. After the final pitch of his live batting practice session, one of the hitters, outfield prospect Brett Phillips, approached the veteran reliever.
"You were trying to set us up the whole time, weren't you?" Phillips asked.
Chamberlain's answer: "100 percent."
Rather than work through an ordered progression of fastballs and breaking balls, catcher Rene Garcia called pitches and Chamberlain actually pitched. Fastballs to both sides of the plate, curveballs and two variations of his slider: a short one for strikes and a harder one for an out pitch.
"You've got to get prepared for the season," Chamberlain said. "This is getting us prepared not only for when we get out there in April, but to keep that mindset all year. I'm treating each at-bat as a different situation in my own head."
For the second straight year, Chamberlain is at a Spring Training camp bidding for a bullpen spot as a non-roster invitee. He made Cleveland's cut last year and posted a 2.25 ERA in 20 appearances, still averaging 93.4 mph with his fastball, but he missed time with a rib-cage strain and was released July 10. When no other clubs came calling, Chamberlain went home to Nebraska and spent the rest of the summer with 10-year-old son Karter, whose name is tattooed on Chamberlain's right hand.
It was at Karter's urging that Chamberlain signed a Minor League deal with the Brewers in January and left home to pursue another season in the big leagues.
"I don't think any evaluations have been made on the mound yet, for any of these guys," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "But what he brings to the table is he has experience. He's probably experienced more than most players will ever experience. He has an opportunity to help in that regard.
"He's been a top prospect and a famous prospect. He's had big success. He's struggled. He's had injuries. He's pitched in World Series games. So he brings a lot of perspective, and I think he's at a point in his career where he enjoys the opportunity to put a uniform on and come out and compete."
The Brewers have many decisions to make in a bullpen headed by free-agent acquisition Neftali Feliz. Returning relievers Carlos Torres, Corey Knebel and Jacob Barnes are positioned to play prominent roles, and Chamberlain falls into a large group of competitors for remaining spots.
Chamberlain pitched in the postseason for the Yankees in 2007 before he'd ever appeared in a big league camp. Two years later, he was pitching in the World Series and winning a championship ring.
Now, at 31, he is a veteran in a young Brewers clubhouse. Chamberlain, Torres and starters Matt Garza and Junior Guerra are the only pitchers in camp who were born before 1986.
"My hairline tells me I'm the old guy," Chamberlain said. "It's so fun to see this young energy."
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast.