Yankees reliever Joely Rodriguez, throwing a bullpen session last Tuesday,...

Yankees reliever Joely Rodriguez, throwing a bullpen session last Tuesday, experienced a drop in velocity Thursday. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

CLEARWATER, Fla. – Aaron Boone had said Joely Rodriguez’s dramatic dip in velocity during Thursday’s relief outing against the Tigers “caught my attention.”

Boone received an answer Friday morning before leaving with the team to head to BayCare Ballpark for that afternoon’s 6-5 loss to the Phillies.

“I buzzed through the training room, he was getting worked on,” Boone said of the lefty reliever, who performed well after being acquired at the 2021 trade deadline. “I know he was better today, but he was getting worked on. He had a little pinch in his neck that I think probably was affecting his [delivery], which explains maybe some of the velocity [issues].”

Rodriguez, who typically throws a mid-90s fastball, saw the pitch resting in the 90-mph range during his two-thirds of an inning against Detroit in which he allowed five runs and five hits.

“He felt better today,” Boone said Friday. “I don't think it's anything [serious].”

Much better for Chappy

Closer Aroldis Chapman, who nearly took Joey Gallo’s head off with a pitch during a simulated game Tuesday, was sharp in his exhibition debut Friday. Chapman, whom the Yankees plan to use in the eighth inning occasionally so he doesn’t go too long without taking the mound, struck out two and walked one in one inning.

He struck out the first batter he faced, Darick Hall, with a 97-mph fastball. After retiring Kyle Schwarber on a pop to second and walking Bryson Stott, Chapman struck out Bryce Harper swinging at a 98-mph fastball.

“Good to see him come in, first game action, and control the strike zone,” Boone said. “Thought he looked pretty sharp overall.”

Keep an eye on Man-Ban

Manny Banuelos, a one-time prized pitching prospect who impressed the Yankees with an electric spring training in March 2011, made it two straight good outings. Banuelos, now 31 and in camp on a minor-league deal, struck out three in two scoreless innings Friday and will continue to be built up.  

“Two-seam fastball was really good today and followed that [with]  some good changeups,” Banuelos said. “Need to keep working on the breaking ball.”

Said Boone: “He’s looked good all camp.”

Eleven years ago, Banuelos had the franchise, in the words of general manager Brian Cashman back then, “dreaming big” before a series of injuries essentially ruined his chances with the club.

Back to work

Kyle Higashioka homered twice and had three hits Friday. But there also was a wild pitch he felt he should have stopped and a passed ball.
“Not a good day behind the plate,” Higashioka said with a smile. “I’ll be working on catching tomorrow.”

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