ARLINGTON, Texas — Aroldis Chapman returned Saturday to the only job he had ever known in the big leagues — until a few weeks ago, that is.
And one of his current and former teammates believes the lefthander will be there to stay.
“He’s our closer, man,” Todd Frazier said after Chapman pitched a perfect ninth to earn the save in the Yankees’ 3-1 victory over the Rangers. “He’s going to do his job from here on out, I can just tell.”
Frazier and Chapman were teammates with the Reds from 2011-15. “His presence is a little more uplifting right now,” Frazier said. “The way he walks around, a little more of a smile on his face. He felt better. Maybe he was putting too much pressure on himself.”
Chapman was demoted Aug. 20 after four straight poor outings but has regained Joe Girardi’s trust. Earlier in the week in Baltimore, Girardi indicated that he had been reinstated as the closer, and when a save chance presented itself Saturday, there was no hesitation.
Chapman made quick work of the Rangers in the ninth, striking out two. His command had been a major issue during his slump, but 11 of his 13 pitches were strikes and eight of them were at least 100 mph.
“I feel good about him out there,” Girardi said after the game. “I’ve told you, this is a guy who’s been too good for too long to lose it. So it was good to get him back out there and he threw well.”
Chapman got ahead of Elvis Andrus 1-and-2 before getting him to chop one to second, and a charging Starlin Castro made a good play to nip him at first. Chapman struck out Nomar Mazara on a slider and pinch hitter Mike Napoli with a 102-mph fastball to end it.
“I was really happy it went the way we wanted, we won the game,” Chapman said through his translator. “I felt normal. Nothing out of the ordinary for me.”
Chapman, who has 17 saves and a 3.92 ERA, never complained about his demotion or politicked for a return to the closer’s role.
“I never felt bad about that,” he said. “I was struggling, I was going through a rough patch there and they decided to move me from the position. The thing is we have other pitchers on this team that are all capable of closing a game like [Dellin] Betances and [David] Robertson. And I was happy that they were getting the job done, because at this level, you have to put aside your pride and focus on what’s the most important thing, which is winning.”
Some of his focus understandably has been outside the sport in recent days. Chapman, who defected in 2009, has plenty of family and friends in Cuba, which was hit hard by Hurricane Irma. He also has family in Miami, including his parents and a daughter.
“That’s a serious topic,” Chapman said. “I still have a whole lot of family in Cuba. Luckily, where the hurricane went through, they were away from it. I’ve been in constant communication with my family back in Cuba; thank God they’re fine. My family in Florida, I sent them to New York. I told them it was better for them to get to New York.”