The Yankees still are not ready to trust Aroldis Chapman in high-leverage situations, but the former closer continues to show encouraging signs.
Chapman relieved Nestor Cortes in the sixth inning Saturday and successfully protected a four-run lead with a dominant 1-2-3 inning. It was the third straight outing in which he retired all three batters he faced.
Chapman struck out Hunter Dozier looking at a 100-mph fastball leading off the inning and Michael A. Taylor looking at a splitter to end the frame. In between, Vinnie Pasquantino flied out on a 101-mph fastball — additional evidence the lefthander, after perhaps falling too much in love with his slider and splitter — is continuing to focus on the pitch that made him the feared closer he once was.
“He’s throwing his fastball for strikes again,” Aaron Boone said after his team’s 8-2 victory over the Royals. “I think it’s delivery-related, I think it’s focus-related. Not that he’s not focused, but just focused on being efficient with his delivery . . . the fastball, it’s crispy, and I think that’s because he’s efficient with his delivery. Strikes are falling and then his secondary [stuff] can work off of that. I thought again he was really sharp.”
Chapman, who missed 35 games from May 24-June 30 with left Achilles tendinitis, said the mechanical fixes he’s been working on with his delivery are paying off.
“We’ve made some minor adjustments here and there, and we’ve been practicing [those],” Chapman said through his interpreter. “I think the biggest thing is just taking that and putting it into game action. The results are coming out nicely.”
Chapman didn’t elaborate on specific changes but said they’ve contributed to an increased confidence in throwing his fastball.
“Thank God for that,” said Chapman, who has a 5.01 ERA in 28 games. “It [the fastball] has been much better. I’ve been able to spot it and use it more often.”
Benintendi on the move
Andrew Benintendi started in leftfield and batted leadoff Thursday in his first game as a Yankee. He then batted sixth and started in left on Friday. Saturday brought a third position in the lineup as Benintendi, again starting in left, batted third (between Aaron Judge and Gleyber Torres).
“I feel like Benny’s about as natural a fit in any spot as anyone we have,” Boone said. “So just trying to create a little bit of a balance with our right- and lefthanders.”
Benintendi had three walks and a sacrifice fly Saturday.
Boone said he’s always been a fan of Old-Timers’ Day and planned to soak in as much from those in attendance as possible.
“I guess I go out there, in my mind, as just kind of a fly on the wall,” he said. “I just want to see those guys in their element. I think that’s one of the rewarding things about when I’ve gone out there in ’18 or ’19 when it’s been BP and a game and things like that, just to kind of rub shoulders with them, listen to them . . . for me, it’s being a little bit of a fan, frankly.”
Boone said he would like the Old-Timers’ game to return at some point. If it does, he said there’s one pitcher he’d like to see on the mound.
“I wouldn’t mind seeing The Rocket,” Boone said of Roger Clemens, a Yankee from 1999-2003 and again in 2007.
Boone smiled and said, “Maybe not to face him.”
Boone said he thought of Clemens, who was not among the Old-Timers in attendance Saturday, while watching the first three episodes of “The Captain” — the recently released documentary of Derek Jeter.
“To hear Derek talk about Clemens when he first came over and, obviously, they had some history, Clemens dusting him and even hitting him and things like that,” Boone said. “And I remember even coming over from the National League [traded to the Yankees in 2003] and knowing [Roger’s reputation]. I had the same sort of experience as what Derek describes in [the documentary], which was he was an awesome teammate, he really was. A lot of fun to play with and be around, and the way he treated everyone and just how hooked up [he was] every single day.”