When the Detroit Tigers visit Yankee Stadium to begin a four-game series on Monday, the lion's share of attention won't be on Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer or prized Yankees acquisition Brandon McCarthy.
There will some attention paid to the fact that the Yankees will be the first team to ever face its league's three previous Cy Young Award winners on consecutive days, starting with Scherzer, then David Price on Tuesday and Justin Verlander on Wednesday.
But for the time being, man of the hour will be reserved for Tigers reliever Joba Chamberlain, who will likely make his first appearance in the Bronx at some point in the series since signing with Detroit in December. The former Yankee pitched the first seven seasons of his career in New York, producing a 0.38 ERA in 19 games as a rookie in 2007 and going 9-6 during the team's World Series championship season in 2009.
"They gave me the opportunity to play baseball," Chamberlain said. "I'm so grateful for that, thankful for the opportunities. Through all the ups and downs and the good years, and the [Joba] rules [limiting the then-young righty's innings] and what have you, but without the opportunity with the New York Yankees, I wouldn't have the opportunity to sit here and talk to you about this."
Chamberlain's career in New York went south during his final two seasons with the club. But he's managed to turn it around in Detroit, and he sports a 3.02 ERA in 49 appearances this year.
"Change isn't always the easiest thing, but sometimes it's for the best," Chamberlain said. "They saw me grow up. They saw my son grow up. I've been in a million situations on a baseball field with them. Like I've said before, the baseball side of things is a little bit easier than the relationship side of things. They'd watched me grow up. They'd seen my son. They'd been through it all with me. Won a World Series together. That, sometimes, is the hardest part."
The veteran is especially looking forward to possibly battling Derek Jeter, who plans to retire at the end of this season.
"I've faced some guys that are really, really good, but I would like a chance to face him," Chamberlain said. "Not only as being his teammate, also being his friend, but also him being one of the greatest players to ever play this game. I would like to get that one at-bat, just to get the head nod that I've seen for so long. If he's going to head nod me, I'm going to stick my tongue out at him."
It's fair to wonder how many days Chamberlain will sit before getting his chance. Scherzer, Price and Verlander all usually pitch deep into games.
The Yankees, meanwhile, will begin the series with McCarthy on the hill. Acquired from Arizona in a trade at the beginning of July, McCarthy is 3-0 with a 2.55 ERA since the move and has helped solidify a rotation that needs to be running on all cylinders to make a late-season push for the American League East crown.
Tigers: Scherzer has trouble at Yankee Stadium
Scherzer has allowed a few home runs over Yankee Stadium's short right-field porch. His five home runs allowed in the building match the O.co Coliseum for the most he has allowed at an AL ballpark outside the AL Central.
"There's just nothing you can do about it," Scherzer said. "You have the short porch in right. You've got to do everything you can to keep the ball from going in the air in that direction. That's a lot easier said than done.
"You just realize it's there. The thing is, if a cheap one does go out, you just don't let it affect you. You don't sit there and cry about it and let it affect the next hitter. If it happens, you just turn the page and get the next guy out. You have to have that relentless mentality."
Yankees: Team winning in spite of large supporting cast
When Esmil Rogers made his Yankees debut on Sunday, he became the 50th player the team has used this season, seven of which have made their Major League debuts. They have used a franchise-record 29 pitchers, including 11 starters and have started a rookie pitcher 49 times, tops in the Majors.
Despite all that, they're still in the thick of the playoff race.
"It really hasn't been difficult," manager Joe Girardi said. "We had a lot of practice last year. We've had a lot of practice already this year. I've said all along we've got a great group of guys in there. Guys with open arms. Guys that have a history together."
Jeter said the constant turnover is not something guys in the clubhouse are worried about.
"It's probably more of a challenge for the guys that are coming over," Jeter said. "It's not so much of a challenge for us. We try to make everyone feel as comfortable as possible. There's only so much you can do. It takes some time before you get acclimated with new surroundings and new teammates. We just try to make everyone feel comfortable."
• Perhaps spending some time outside of hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium has been good for Chamberlain. His HR/9 rate (0.4) is tied for the lowest of his career.
• Even if the Yankees can tally wins against the Cy Young trio of Scherzer, Price and Verlander, they still have to contend with Rick Porcello (13-5) on Thursday.
• McCarthy's four-start run in the Bronx hasn't exactly been a complete reversal of fortunes. He finished his D-backs tenure with two strong starts, and his ERA is 2.41 over his past six outings.