Joba Chamberlain tossed five hitless innings Saturday as the Tampa Yankees cruised past the St. Lucie Mets, 5-1, to earn a split of their doubleheader.
Following the completion of a suspended game that went 13 innings, Chamberlain (1-0) gave the Tampa bullpen some much-needed rest. The 21-year-old right-hander struck out six and walked four en route to his first professional victory.
"I was really excited to get my first victory out of the way as well as get the team a win," Chamberlain said. "I didn't even know I had not allowed a hit, I found out from a teammate after I was already out of the game."
Jose Valdez replaced Chamberlain to begin the sixth and struck out the first two batters before Jose Castro reached him for a single to right field that ended Tampa's no-hit bid.
Chamberlain used three pitches to keep the Mets off-balance but admits his changeup is a work-in-progress.
"I was getting ahead early with my fastball and then expanding the zone with my slider while mixing my changeup in," he said. "My change was effective early and the slider late ... but my change is my least consistent pitch and a little sporadic. I am working on improving it."
The Lincoln, Nebraska native, who is regarded as one of the Yankees' top pitching prospects, was making just his second pro start after injuring his hamstring. He allowed an unearned run on three hits and struck out five over four innings on Monday against Daytona.
On a strict pitch count, Chamberlain knew he was coming out of the game after the fifth inning and wasn't around to see St. Lucie's first hit.
"I didn't know about [the first hit], I was finishing up my conditioning and icing and found out when I came back to the bench," he said. "I wasn't disappointed that we gave up a hit; it happens and is part of the game. I was just happy to help get the team a win."
The former first-round draft pick realized the importance of going deep in the game.
"I knew we had to save the bullpen as much as we can ... it becomes long after 13 innings earlier and then we have to go another seven, so I was thinking about trying to save the 'pen," he explained.
Chamberlain, a supplemental pick in the first round of the 2006 draft, signed late last season and did not pitch. He saw his first professional action over the winter in Hawaii, where he went 2-2 with a 2.63 ERA in nine games (six starts) and was named the league's top prospect.
In his first two Florida State Leauge starts, Chamberlain has looked as good as advertised with 11 strikeouts and four walks in nine innings. Going forward, he is looking to improve his conditioning.
"I am just going to keep working on my delivery and all of my pitches and try to extend myself and my pitch count each time out," he said.
Valdez finished up, allowing one run on three hits and a walk while fanning four to protect Chamberlain's first victory.
James Cooper went 2-for-3 with a two-run homer, his second, and two runs scored, while Kevin Russo was 2-for-3 with an RBI for Tampa (17-18).
St. Lucie starter Jose De La Torre (2-4) took the loss after giving up five runs on eight hits over 3 2/3 innings. He struck out one and walked one.
Jamar Hill hit an RBI single in the seventh for the Mets, who lost five of six (15-21).
Chip Haunss is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.