TAMPA, Fla. — The general manager shrugged it off, but he was about the only one who did.
Aroldis Chapman threw his first bullpen session of spring training early Saturday afternoon, firing 26 pitches to Brian McCann with much of the Yankees’ hierarchy watching, including GM Brian Cashman.
“I was just getting sun,” the typically pasty Cashman said with a smile. “It’s a Saturday, it’s sunny, I’m white as a ghost. Anybody who’s covered me, at least in my time as a general manager, knows that the most boring stories ever are the bullpen sessions that go on in the first two weeks of camp.”
Chapman, whose fastball last season averaged an MLB-high 99.98 mph and peaked at 103.92 mph, didn’t produce those kinds of numbers Saturday. No pitcher, for obvious reasons, goes full-bore at this time of the year. But that doesn’t mean Chapman failed to make an impression.
“It was exactly what I thought it would be,” McCann said. “Comes out extremely hot, it’s nice and easy. His delivery is smooth . . . There’s no one walking around that does what he does.”
Joe Girardi was among those watching Chapman’s group, which included CC Sabathia and the two pitchers expected to precede Chapman to the mound in the late innings, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller.
“He’s a physical specimen,” Girardi said of the 6-4, 212-pound Chapman, who went 33-for-36 in saves with a 1.63 ERA last year. “You can kind of see why he throws so hard.”
For his part, Chapman was as nonchalant as Cashman regarding his day in the sun, not to mention the spotlight.
“For me, it’s something normal,” Chapman said through his translator. “It really doesn’t matter to me who’s watching, who’s not watching. My job is to get the job done and focus on my pitches.”
Chapman said he kept his arm going throughout the offseason, throwing “the last couple of months” on flat ground.
The lefthander has two pitches besides his hyped fastball, McCann said, mentioning his slider and changeup.
It’s an arsenal — mostly the fastball, of course — that helped Chapman strike out 116 batters in 66 1⁄3 innings last season. The 27-year-old has struck out 546 batters in 319 big-league innings.
“I like striking out batters as much as anybody else,” Chapman said.
There figures to be plenty of those this season. Betances struck out 131 in 84 innings and Miller fanned 100 in 61 2⁄3 innings in 2015.
Watching the three of them lined up in the bullpen Saturday had Girardi and McCann anticipating what the late innings — with a lead, naturally — could look like.
“It will be some fairly easy calls to make there,” Girardi said, later adding that, depending on the score and the situation, he might try to use two of the three in a given night rather than deploying all three in the same game on a regular basis. “These guys have a lot of potential between them and what they’re able to do. And they’re all strikeout guys, and that’s what you want in the back end of your bullpen, complete shutdown guys. It’s a nice luxury to have.”
Said McCann: “It hit me when we were all in the bullpen catching and you look and it’s the three big guys throwing at the same time. You look and [say] it’s got a chance to be something special.”
McCann, 1-for-5 in his career against Chapman, including a walk-off pop-up single against the Reds in a 3-2 victory on July 20, 2014, at the Stadium, said he’s looking forward to catching the closer much more than facing him.
“Yeah, it’s intimidating, yes, it’s hard to see the baseball,” McCann said. “You don’t pick it up . . . You almost have to start your swing before he releases it. Anticipate the ball being in a spot and meet it.”