Aaron Boone said Friday afternoon he wouldn’t hesitate to use Aroldis Chapman for a lower-leverage situation or “the biggest spot in the ninth inning” against the Red Sox.
The scuffling Yankees closer got the ninth inning Friday night, but it came in mop-up duty, and he dusted off the cobwebs to pitch the final inning of a 4-0 loss in The Bronx, looking to work himself out of a brutal funk.
That appeared to remain a work in progress. Chapman delivered a second straight scoreless outing on 23 pitches (15 strikes) and recorded a strikeout, but he also walked a batter, committed a throwing error with a wild pickoff attempt and gave up a pair of flyouts to the warning track.
“Better,” Boone said. “Glad he was able to get in there. I thought he recognized and made some little adjustments within the outing. When he’d miss with a pitch, it wasn’t snowballing on him. Like he could feel some things as far as making some adjustments within the game, within a batter, which I thought was encouraging.
“I thought a good step for him and hopefully one he can build on.”
It was Chapman’s first appearance in 10 days and only his second in seven games since he blew leads in three consecutive outings. He also went to the All-Star Game in between — an honor he received for his 0.39 ERA through his first 23 appearances — but did not pitch in Denver.
In nine appearances from June 10 to July 4, Chapman got rocked for 14 earned runs in 5 ²/₃ innings. He blew three saves in that stretch — which doesn’t include coughing up an 8-4 lead in the ninth inning against the Angels — while giving up four home runs, walking nine and striking out six.
Chad Green has handled closing duties since then, while Chapman’s lone appearance before Friday had been in the ninth inning of a 12-1 win over the Mariners on July 6.
Boone has insisted that Chapman’s struggles are not related to MLB’s crackdown on foreign substances — though the timing lines up — but instead were a result of his delivery getting out of whack. The manager reiterated that if the Yankees are going to get to where they want to go this season, they need Chapman to pitch as he’s capable of pitching.
“That’s the Chapman that I’ve known and I’ve come to see and experience,” catcher Gary Sanchez said of Friday’s outing. “You have to understand, as a ballplayer, we all go through different struggles. You have to fight and get back on track. There’s no doubt in my mind of his abilities.”