After a couple of weeks of late-game uncertainty, the Yankees have their closer back.
Aaron Boone didn’t hesitate in responding affirmatively when asked Wednesday whether Aroldis Chapman immediately would reclaim that role. The seven-time All-Star was activated from the injured list ahead of Wednesday’s game against the Red Sox at the Stadium after being sidelined since Aug. 6 with elbow inflammation.
“I think right away we felt pretty good about what we were dealing with as far as the elbow,” Boone said via Zoom before the game. “I think we just took the conservative approach of giving it a few days to kind of calm down. I think that probably served him and us well.
“We feel good about where he’s at coming out of his bullpen the other day. Really over the last few weeks before that, we felt that he was settling back into being the Chappy we know.”
Indeed, the hard-throwing lefty seemed to have righted himself from a July slump with a 0.82 ERA, 19 strikeouts and seven consecutive saves over 11 appearances (one run in 11 innings) through his most-recent outing on Aug. 5 against Seattle before landing on the IL the following day.
Before that stretch, Chapman briefly had been removed from the closer role during a rough patch bridging June and July in which he was tagged for 14 earned runs with nine walks over 5 ²/₃ innings.
Zack Britton, Chad Green and Jonathan Loaisiga combined for five blown saves while Chapman — who entered one save shy of becoming the 31st reliever to record 300 for his career — was sidelined.
“I’ve never had to pitch the ninth inning, but from what I hear, it’s a crazy inning, unlike any other in baseball. It’s a really hard three outs to get, and he’s been one of the best in the game at getting those three outs over the last 11 or 12 years, whatever it’s been,” Jameson Taillon, who will start Thursday against the Twins, said of Chapman. “I got to watch his bullpen [Monday] up close, and it was the best I’ve seen him look all year.
“It was seriously really impressive stuff. He had other big league ballplayers back there watching him, getting giddy just watching him execute pitches and do his thing. I’m excited to have him back. I think it lengthens our bullpen, puts everyone else in some different roles. It will allow Loaisiga and Green to pitch in some jams in the middle of the game again.”
Asked what stood out about Chapman’s session, Taillon added: “Throwing all three of his pitches for strikes. You could hear his fastball literally screaming across the plate. It was impressive. He had [bullpen coach Mike] Harkey standing in left-handed and right-handed and was just pumping strikes in there. I think if he carries that over, we’ll be in a really good spot.”
First baseman Anthony Rizzo (COVID-19) also was activated Wednesday, with Nick Nelson and Jonathan Davis optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
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