Aroldis Chapman doesn’t know exactly when he will be ready to anchor the Yankees’ bullpen, but he has more information on that situation than he does about how he contracted the coronavirus that put him on the COVID-19 injured list to start the season.
Chapman tested negative during the intake process but positive shortly after spring training 2.0 opened.
“I don’t know how or where I contracted the virus,’’ said Chapman, who lost his sense of taste and smell but otherwise wasn’t affected. “I was careful. I was doing what I was supposed to be doing, coming to the stadium and going home.’’
Despite feeling fine, Chapman had to test negative twice before being allowed to rejoin the Yankees, and he was immediately sent to the alternate site in Scranton.
“I feel good and I feel normal,’’ Chapman said Wednesday.
As for a return to a big league mound for the first time in a game that counts since Game 6 of last year’s crushing ALCS loss that ended the Yankees’ season, Chapman said he is making progress.
“[Tuesday] faced hitters for the first time and felt better than expected,’’ Chapman said via Zoom. “Being on the mound and facing hitters and the recovery following that. I believe I have another outing on Thursday or Friday and if everything goes well, if everything goes the way we want, I think any time after that.’’
Since Chapman was in the Yankees’ clubhouse for a few days in between testing negative and positive, he was concerned he might have infected a teammate or staff member.
“Of course, you are worried about your teammates and you understand the situation you are in. Although there are a lot of protocols we follow and we try to do the best we can to keep our distance you still have to train and get your work done working in the gym with other people,’’ Chapman said. “I talked to my teammates and let them know, to kind of give them a heads up.’’
According to pitching coach Matt Blake, Chapman will be re-evaluated after Friday’s simulated game.
“Kind of figure out if he rejoins or wants another [sim game],’’ Blake said of Chapman, who pushed speed guns to 99 mph Tuesday. “We want to go through the necessary precautions as we go down the stretch.’’
Zack Britton has gone 6-for-6 in save chances filling in for Chapman.
Aaron Boone is trusting his eyes more than the results when it comes to Gary Sanchez’s struggles at the plate.
“He had a number of longer at-bats where he laid off pitches,’’ Boone said when asked about Sanchez’s at-bats Tuesday night — when he went hitless in four at-bats, but did hit one ball hard. “I would say more in the fight. I feel he is starting to see the ball and recognize pitches better.’’
Sanchez was 4-for-43 (.093) this season entering Wednesday night’s game and had struck out 24 times.
Tommy Kahnle going down in the first week of the season and needing Tommy John surgery was a big blow for the Yankees’ bullpen, since the right-hander’s change-up was a legitimate weapon against left-handed hitters.
Nevertheless, Jonathan Holder, a disappointment last year when he was sent to Triple-A, has helped fill the hole left by Kahnle’s departure.
“He has been outstanding for us, primarily with the four-seam fastball and the change-up,’’ Blake said of the 27-year-old right-hander, who hadn’t allowed a run in five appearances (6 ²/₃ innings) and struck out six. “Having a cutter and curveball in play, just having a well-rounded mix and gets righties and lefties out.’’
When Giancarlo Stanton went on the IL Sunday, the Yankees had a choice between Clint Frazier, who was promoted from the alternate site, and Miguel Andujar, who wasn’t.
“Another one of those tough calls. Just felt that Clint kind of earned that from what we were seeing,’’ Boone said. “At this time felt like we wanted to go with Clint.’’
Andujar being raw in the outfield and having one hit in 14 at-bats before being sent out played a part in the decision.