CLEVELAND — Aroldis Chapman came off the injured list before Friday’s game, but the All-Star closer was not returning to his familiar role. The 34-year-old has lost his job as the Yankees main closer to Clay Holmes.
That is something that Yankees manager Aaron Boone discussed with Chapman before his return
“We’ve talked and we’ll continue to talk. He deserves that,” Boone said before Friday night’s series opener against the Guardians at Progressive Field. “He deserves that kind of respect. So, as we go, we’ll try and be as forthright as we can, heading into a game where we see him but for right now it’s just getting him back in. And he’s ready for anything.”
Chapman, through Yankees interpreter Marlon Abreu, said that he understands that Holmes has earned that role right now. In his absence, Holmes has converted 14 of 15 saves. He has allowed just two earned runs in 36.2 inning pitched this season.
Now, the Bombers have to try and work Chapman back into high-leverage situations where he can succeed.
“The biggest thing for me and Chappy right now is I want to get him in a really good place where he’s pitching somewhat regularly. Especially here to start , whatever that situation is, whether it’s a low leverage, medium leverage or it could be a high leverage because the game dictates it. It could be closing because the game dictates it,” Boone said. “I just want to get him in situations where he’s going out there with the best opportunity to be successful. Hopefully get in that good rhythm where he’s pounding the strike zone. And if we can do that, we’ll be in a good spot.”
Chapman was in a great spot at the start of 2021, but since then he has struggled. In 17 appearances this season, before suffering an Achilles/ankle injury, the native Cuban had the highest ERA (3.86) and the lowest strikeout rate (22.7%) of his career. His fastball velocity, which has been declining since 2017, is averaging 97.1 miles per hour. The velocity on all his other pitches is down as well.
The Yankees, with the luxury of Holmes, took a little extra time bringing Chapman back from the IL, to let him work on his delivery. Chapman said there were no major mechanical changes needed. Pitching coach Matt Blake said they were trying to get Chapman to focus on staying in line and Boone described the work as making Chapman “more compact.”
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“He can get a little spread out a little wide. And that’s when there can be a little bit of inconsistency.” Boone said. “So just trying to keep him almost shorter, and just tight. Almost like playing catch. I go back to last year at the start, of those first two months, that was so efficient, and it was probably the best version of Chappie we’ve ever seen. And that’s saying something.”
Chapman, who used to throw 100 miles an hour consistently, said he was just “polishing up,” his mechanics and that he is not concerned about his velocity drop.
“The mechanics have been like that for a long long time. So polishing my mechanics…. I’m not paying attention to velocity as much as you guys are,” Chapman said. “You guys would to pay attention to velocity and make it a talking point, but the reality is that (these) mechanics have been my mechanic’s mechanics for a long time. So polishing is no going to give me a boost of X amount of speed it just is what it is”
To get Chapman back on the active 26-man roster, the Yankees moved Miguel Castro to the Paternity list.
“I think just this weekend, we expect him to meet us in Pittsburgh,” Boon said.
Yankees right-handed reliever Jonathan Loaisiga will face live hitters for the first time since going on the IL since May 25 with right shoulder inflammation. Loaisiga left New York for Tampa when the Yankees left town on Wednesday night to work out at the Player Development complex, where he will throw the live batting practice on Saturday.
Domingo German, who began the season in the IL with right shoulder impingement syndrome, will have another minor league rehab start on Sunday, Boone said. He is expected to increase his pitch count, which was at 43 the last time out, with Somerset. Blake said that they were building him up to use in either a bullpen or rotation role.