Yankees Injury Update: Closer expected to return this week, big strategy shift

Alexander Wilson
aroldis chapman, yankees

The New York Yankees are expecting closer Aroldis Chapman to make a return prior to Friday’s series opener against the Cleveland Guardians.

After sweeping the Oakland Athletics, the Bombers are gearing up to face off against the Houston Astros for one game before traveling to Cleveland Thursday evening. Luckily, they will gain reinforcements in the bullpen. Chapman pitched a scoreless inning with Triple-A Scranton on Tuesday night, indicating he’s ready to go.

“Possibly tomorrow, but he’s thrown three out of five [days] now so we want to kind of have him in a good spot. So we’re ready to go back to back if we need to,” Boone said. “So I haven’t even seen him yet today. So we’ll kind of see where we are today. But I would say tomorrow’s potentially in play and probably definitely Friday.”

Chapman was struggling prior to going down with an Achilles tendinitis issue. In the month of May, Chapman recorded a 9.53 ERA, giving up 11 hits, six runs, and two homers. Clearly, the injury was impacting his delivery, which directly correlated to poor results.

The Yankees are changing up Chapman’s delivery to see if they get restore his velocity:

However, Boone stated that the Yankees have been tweaking his delivery to provide more torque and hopefully revive some of his lost velocity. This season, Chapman is averaging out at 97.1 miles an hour with his fastball, down 1.4 mph compared to 2021.

“I think the biggest thing for me [is] it’s delivery related,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said Wednesday morning before the Yankees swept the A’s at the Stadium. “When he’s in control of delivery everything else follows the fastball, but the crispness of the fastball, and whatever that number is, whether it’s 101 [mph] or 97, whatever, it’s just if he’s got some feel with that pitch and feel with his delivery then everything else works off of that.

If Aroldis can get his usual velocity back, his fastball should see a bit more efficiency. This season, opposing batters are hitting .217 against his 4-seam fastball, which he’s thrown 51.9%. He may incorporate more splitters and sinkers into the mix, especially since his sinker averages out at over 100 mph (over a 15-pitch sample size this season).

“For much of this year, he’s thrown the ball really well. He had a couple tough outings before he went on the IL. But hopefully, the time down to address those issues, not only physically with the ankle and the Achilles, but also hopefully syncing them up a little bit better and allowing them to be more consistent with his mechanics.”

With Clay Holmes locking down the high-leverage closer role, they can get a bit more creative with how they use Chapman. Whether it be situational usage against lefty hitters or setting Holmes up in the 8th inning, Chapman has agreed to operate in anyway management sees fit.

Having a lethal 1–2 punch with Chapman and Holmes could be special. They may look to get Chapman back into the mix in low leverage situations while he continues his rehabilitation.