Posted on August 20, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
As they struggle to keep pace with the Boston Red Sox atop the AL East standings, the New York Yankees are shaking things up in their bullpen. Yankees manager Joe Girardi announced Saturday that Aroldis Chapman has been removed from the closer’s role. The change comes one day after Girardi scolded Chapman in the middle of an inning, in part because he didn’t back up home plate after yielding a two-run single.
Chapman has struggled since coming back in mid-June following a six-week stint on the DL because of a rotator cuff injury. Since coming off the DL, Chapman’s ERA has risen from 3.55 to 4.29. Things have been particularly bad for Chapman over the past week. He’s given up seven runs over 4.1 innings across four outings. The Yankees have lost two of those four games, both to the Red Sox.
“I have been through difficult situations where things have not gone my way,” Chapman said through an interpreter after Friday’s game. “This one definitely is the hardest one. But I’m pretty sure I will bounce back.”
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But Girardi has seen enough from the Cuban lefty. The manager doesn’t want to see Chapman blow any more saves until he gets things turned around.
“He’s been scuffling over the past 10 days, two weeks,” explains Girardi. “I just thought for us to get him back on track, maybe the best way would be to move him around a little bit until he gets going. When we get him going like I believe he’ll get going, there’s a good chance I’ll put him right back in that closer’s role.”
Girardi says that either Dellin Betances or David Robertson could be used to close games. Betances served as the closer while Chapman was on the DL earlier this year. He’s saved 29 games for the Yankees over the last three seasons, including eight this year. He’s posted a 2.15 ERA this season and has been almost un-hittable since the all-star break.
However, Robertson, who was reacquired before the trade deadline, spent three-plus seasons as the Chicago White Sox closer, making him the more experienced option. He also has a 1.23 ERA since being traded to the Yankees. Girardi appears comfortable using either one to close out games and is open to either claiming the job as his own.
“When you look at guys like Robbie and Dellin, these are guys that get left-handers and right-handers out as well,” Girardi said. “Chapman’s been the same. If it was to work better, it’s definitely something that we’re going to consider.”
Meanwhile, Girardi says that Chapman won’t have a defined role for the time being. The lefty will be used however Girardi sees fit.
“I will use him at any point, similar to what we’re doing with our other relievers,” explains the manager. “He said he’s here to help us win, whatever it takes. He knows that he needs to get back on track and he’s scuffled a little bit, but he says he’s willing to do anything. He just wants to win.”
Girardi made it a point to say that Chapman has a chance to work his way back into the closer’s role. But with winning being valued above all else, the Yankees should be in no rush to put him back there. With pitchers like Betances and Robertson, the Yankees are still in good shape at the back end of their bullpen. Those two could make it difficult for Chapman to earn his way back into the closer’s role before the end of the season.