The Yankees purposely stayed away from Aroldis Chapman leading up to the All-Star break because of his balky knee. And the team is not concerned that Saturday’s disastrous outing — marked by erratic pitches and a loss of velocity — is an indication that the closer is still hurt, general manager Brian Cashman said in a radio interview Sunday.
The bumpy ride, Cashman said, was due to ambience, not affliction.
“He needs that tightrope to really be locked in,” Cashman said in an interview on Boomer and Gio on WFAN. “I just think mentally he needs that save situation to be what you typically see and historically, if it’s not and it’s one of those knock the rust off innings in a losing situation [for either team] you’re not going to get the normal result that you’re used to seeing . . . We’re checking that off as that’s Chappy under those circumstances.”
On Saturday, Chapman took the mound with a four-run lead over the Mets and gave up three walks, an infield hit and hit a batsman and allowed three earned runs. All but three of his 19 pitches were out of the strike zone, but perhaps of more concern, his blazing fastball averaged nearly 3 mph slower at 97.
Chapman, though, told reporters then that he was fine, and Aaron Boone said on Sunday that after checking in with his closer, he isn’t unduly concerned that the knee could be a greater problem than first thought. Chapman has battled knee tendinitis all season, and pitched only twice from July 8 to the end of the first half, on July 15. By the time Saturday’s game rolled along, it had been seven days since he threw an in-game pitch.
Although Cashman said the Yankees did stay away from Chapman leading up to the break, Boone said that he didn’t plan to keep that going.
“I don’t even look at it as we’re trying to stay away or protect him in certain situations,” Boone said. “I treat it as, we’ll protect him just from overusage like we do with any of our guys, but it honestly has less to do with about the knee. We’re pretty comfortable that he’s in a good place and [Saturday] was just a bad day for him.”
Added Cashman: “I think — it doesn’t mean we’re right — but I think when you see a player like Chappy — and if you get back to his history — he needs that tightrope to really be locked in. It’s not an excuse. It’s just more of a fact.”
Chapman’s career ERA in save situations going into Sunday was 1.96, while it bumps up to 2.53 in non-save situations, where he’s pitched in around 75 fewer innings. He does tend to walk people more in non-save situations, though — 101 in 196 innings, compared to 111 in 271 1⁄3. On Saturday, though, Chapman posted his lowest fastball velocity of the season: 94.6, according to FanGraphs.
“It’s tough to say,” if the big lead was the culprit, Boone said. “You end up speculating or guessing that that’s the case . . . I know that can happen with closers every now and then because just the [lack of] adrenaline of the situation and Chappy has certainly been amazing in the toughest of situations, so I think I’d chalk it up more frankly to a bad day, where he wasn’t on his game.”