A little over a month later, it is still a mystery to Aroldis Chapman.
“I don’t know how or where I contracted the virus,” the Yankees closer said through his interpreter.
Chapman did not test positive for the coronavirus during the club’s intake screening that preceded the July 4 opening of Yankees’ Spring Training II, but he did just a few days into camp.
“I was careful, I was doing what I was supposed to be doing, coming to the Stadium and going home,” Chapman said. “We have all the protocols, and I made sure to follow all social distancing measures.”
Chapman, who spoke to the media Wednesday afternoon while returning to New York from the Yankees’ alternate site in Moosic, Pa. — where the closer has been working out since being cleared to rejoin the club July 31 — said his experience with the virus was on the mild side.
“The only thing was the loss of taste and smell,” Chapman said. “[Now] I feel good, I feel normal.”
Chapman, coming off a 2019 in which he went 37-for-42 in saves (2.21 ERA, sixth All-Star appearance), said he was concerned about infecting teammates and staff because he had been with the team several days before testing positive.
“Of course, you’re worried for your teammates,’’ Chapman said. “Although we have a lot of protocols that we follow and we try to do the best we can to keep our distance, you’ve still got to train, you’ve still got to get your work done; working in the gym, working with other people.”
After testing positive, Chapman said: “I talked to a lot of my teammates, let them know what was going on and [tried] to give them a heads up . . . thank God that everything worked out as I was the only one who contracted the virus.”
But, as Chapman said, that is in the past and his focus now is preparing to pitch in 2020, something he indicated he should be ready to do within the next week.
“I feel good,” Chapman said. “I felt good throwing and playing catch. I faced hitters for the first time [Tuesday]. It felt better than expected. I think I’m going to have another outing Thursday or Friday, and I hope I can rejoin the team after that.”
Pitching coach Matt Blake said “we’re getting close” to the point of Chapman getting the green light.
“Just want to go through the necessary precautions as we get through the stretch here and not rush him back,” Blake said.
What more do the Yankees need to see from Chapman?
“Just that he feels like he’s bouncing back well and that he feels like the intensity level of it, his live [BP],” Blake said. “We saw him [Tuesday’s live BP] about 96-99 mph. So just continue to tighten up the delivery and just make sure he feels like his body is handling the stress well so that when he comes back, he can get into a regular routine.”
Whenever Chapman returns, he’ll be added to an already stacked bullpen, one that for the most part has been as good as the preseason hype suggested it would be, even with the unit missing Chapman and Tommy Kahnle soon after the regular season started.
Aaron Boone said Chapman will again be the closer, a job Zack Britton has done exceedingly well in the former’s absence. Britton, a former closer with the Orioles, is 7-for-7 in save chances with a 1.23 ERA in eight appearances.
“Obviously, we’ve missed Chappy,” Boone said. “But we’re really fortunate, obviously, to having a dominant reliever in Zack who not only filled in but flourished in that role.”