TAMPA, Fla. — Hank Steinbrenner is looking further ahead than just Joba Chamberlain's initial start tonight for the New York Yankees.

"It's the first start in what could be a 15-year career," Steinbrenner, a Yankees' co-chairman, said Monday night in Tampa, Fla. "With him, we're all looking not just for the rest of this year, we're looking even right now a few years ahead already. That's what counts to us."

New York has been grooming Chamberlain, 22, for a starting role since selecting him out of the University of Nebraska with the 41st overall pick in the 2006 amateur draft. He found success as the set-up man for closer Mariano Rivera during his rookie season last year, posting an 0.38 ERA in 19 appearances. The right-hander started 2008 in the same role.

"Hopefully he does well," Steinbrenner said. "Again, I would have preferred to start the year with him as a starter, but this is the way they have come up with. Hopefully it works and he has no problem with the transition."

Chamberlain will be limited to 65 or 70 pitches when he takes the mound at Yankee Stadium against the Toronto Blue Jays.

"This is what we should do," Steinbrenner said. "This is what the Red Sox have done with (Clay) Buchholz and (Jon) Lester. It's a smart thing to do. But this is the very, very beginning of hopefully a nice long ride for Joba Chamberlain."

Steinbrenner is planning to watch today's game on TV in Florida.

"Everything flows from starting pitching," he said. "Nothing's changed. It was that way 50 years ago. There's more specialization today, but it still stands. Starting pitching is the main thing. You find me a team that succeeds in the postseason without starting pitching and I'll show you a miracle."