TAMPA, Fla. — For obvious reasons, the primary ones being risk of injury and zero benefit, no pitcher throws as hard early in spring training as he does during the regular season.
Just don’t tell Tyler Wade that.
The lefthanded-hitting shortstop prospect was one of four Yankees to face lefthander Aroldis Chapman on Monday morning in the closer’s first live batting practice. Wade smiled when a questioner began with: “At this point, he’s not throwing his usual 101, 102 . . . ”
“It felt like it,” Wade said, laughing. “I couldn’t even imagine [what it’s like], especially being a lefthanded hitter.” He described Chapman’s fastball as “a blur” and “hard to track.”
Chapman also faced lefthanded-hitting outfielder Ben Gamel, righty-hitting shortstop Jorge Mateo and righthanded-hitting outfielder Cesar Puello in the 25-pitch session.
Relievers Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller stuck around to watch Chapman throw after their live BP sessions, and Betances was impressed with more than just the fastball.
“His secondary [pitches] are as good as his fastball,” said Betances, who faced hitters for the second time in camp. “I guess he just doesn’t use it as much because he doesn’t need to when he’s throwing that hard, but I was impressed with his secondary pitches. His changeup was really good.”
Carlos Corporan caught the 6-4, 215-pound Chapman and estimated his fastball at 97-98 mph. “And he was doing it nice and easy,” Corporan said.
Like Betances, Corporan was more impressed with Chapman’s slider and changeup. “He looked like a starting pitcher, using all his pitches,” he said. “The sky’s the limit for him. It’s going to be an interesting summer. I haven’t [faced him], thank God, but he’s real ly fun to catch.”
Through his translator, Chapman said: “Physically I felt awesome out there. It’s the first time I faced live hitters since last season. But I feel great.”
The Yankees and Chapman remained in a holding pattern as they await word from commissioner Rob Manfred on a possible suspension relating to an alleged domestic-abuse incident last October. Florida authorities, citing conflicting witness accounts and their belief that they could not get a conviction with the evidence, did not bring charges against Chapman.
A decision by Manfred is expected any day, although that’s been the case for more than a week. “I’m just waiting like everyone else,” Chapman said.
Joe Girardi said Monday that he never expected a decision by a particular date. “I didn’t know how long it would take,” he said. “The only date in my mind that I thought we would know by was Opening Day.”
General manager Brian Cashman said it’s not something he’s obsessing over.
“It’s not out of my mind, but it’s not in our control,” Cashman said. “We’re not aware [when a decision will come]. We just knew when we acquired him that there’s going to be something that we’re dealing with. It was at what level of something.
“So we’ve gone through the criminal phase, which wasn’t pursued, and now it’s in the hands of the commissioner, who will do what’s best for our sport. We have a lot of trust there and we’ll wait and support whatever his decision will be.”
Chapman has said he will appeal any suspension.