According to Bryan Hoch, manager Joe Girardi confirmed Aroldis Chapman will indeed take over as the Yankees’ closer as soon as he returns from his suspension next Monday. They’re not going to ease him back into things and Andrew Miller’s otherworldly performance doesn’t mean he’ll remain in the ninth inning.
Chapman is scheduled to make tune-up appearances in Extended Spring Training today and Friday — today’s outing will likely be two innings, according to pitching coach Larry Rothschild — before joining the team Monday. He’s been throwing in Tampa since the end of Spring Training and has been gradually increasing the intensity of his prep work.
I thought maybe the Yankees would ease Chapman back into things at first, perhaps with a low to medium leverage outing or two before taking over the ninth. In a perfect world, I bet the Yankees would like to see Aroldis come into Monday’s game to face the 7-8-9 hitters with a three-run lead. Nice and easy for his first game, you know? Just to get those first game jitters out of the way.
Miller has been out of this world so far this season. He’s allowed three singles and one double in ten scoreless innings, with 16 strikeouts and zero walks. Only eight of the 33 batters he’s faced have hit the ball out of the infield. Insanity. Miller has said all along he’ll pitch in any role and he seems sincere about it, so I don’t expect giving up the closer’s job to Chapman to be a problem.
Now, if Chapman comes in and blows one of his first save opportunities, then there will be some second guessing. That’s inevitable. Hopefully that doesn’t happen. Girardi likes to assign relievers set innings, so in all likelihood Miller will take over the eighth inning and Dellin Betances the seventh. I suppose he could mix and match Miller and Betances as necessary, though they’re so good against all hitters it won’t make much of a difference.
“I just think it makes our bullpen longer,” said Girardi to Hoch when asked about the impact of adding Chapman to the bullpen. “You use guys maybe a little bit differently, which I think helps … Let’s just see what we get into. Worry about that when he gets here.”
Getting Chapman back is not going to cure all that ails the Yankees, not even close, but it’s not going to hurt either. Adding this kind of talent to the roster only helps. We’ll see what kind of shape the bullpen is in next week, though the smart money is one Nick Goody going to Triple-A to clear a roster spot for Chapman. Hopefully the Yankees start giving him some games to save.