Joba The Beast has yet to make a start in the major leagues, but the Yanks envision him becoming a front of the rotation starter. The plan right now is to start him in the 'pen, send him to SWB at some point during the season to stretch him out, and then bring him back to be a starter.
What happens if when Joba returns from AAA he gets hammered as a starter? Usually a young pitcher like The Beast would get sent back to AAA to figure out why he is getting hit and then brought back to give it another try.
In Joba's case, however, if he does not succeed almost immediately as a starter, will the Yanks send him down to AAA to work it out, or will they put him back in the 'pen where he has been extremely successful? Having that dominant link to Mariano might be a key to the Yanks winning a World Series in 2008; will Hank, Hal, Cash and General Joe be willing to sacrifice that possibility in order to allow Joba to work out his starting issues in the minors?
I think the Yanks are backing themselves into a corner. It's extremely unfair to ask a 21 year old with ZERO games started in the major leagues to be successful immediately. Unless he is successful immediately the pressure to put him back in the 'pen will be immense. If he returns to the 'pen Joba would probably top out at 100 - 120 ip for the year and we would be faced with the same innings limit issue in 2009 as we are in 2008.
I completely agree with the goal of protecting all of our young pitchers with an eye toward their (and our) future. In this case, however, I think the Yanks are setting Joba up to fail (as a starter) and pushing him toward being a career reliever.