Yankees’ Aroldis Chapman used IL stint to clean up delivery

CLEVELAND — Aroldis Chapman’s Achilles was not the only thing the Yankees hoped to clean up during his time on the injured list. 

The left-handed reliever was activated off the IL on Friday, after a stay of five-plus weeks to treat left Achilles tendinitis he had been dealing with. But the Yankees also used that time to focus on Chapman’s delivery, which had gotten a little out of sync and may have led to some of the struggles he had before he was sidelined. 

“I think they just worked on getting him a little more compact and tight,” manager Aaron Boone said at Progressive Field before the Yankees opened a series against the Guardians. “He can get a little spread out and a little wide. That’s when there can be a little bit of inconsistency. Just trying to keep him shorter and tight, almost like playing catch. 

“That’s the key is really owning his delivery so that first and foremost, he can command his heater.” 

Aroldis Chapman was activated off the IL on Friday.

While Chapman returned to the roster without a defined role — Clay Holmes, who had already begun to emerge as a back-end threat before Chapman got injured, seamlessly took over as closer in his absence — a better version of the lefty would still be an important weapon for the Yankees’ bullpen. 

After not allowing a run through his first 12 appearances of the season, Chapman had given up at least one run in each of his five most recent outings — a combined six runs over 3 ²/₃ innings — before he went on the IL. 

Pitching coach Matt Blake said recently there were “some little things that were starting to creep into [Chapman’s] delivery” that could have been affecting his command and velocity. Chapman had an average fastball velocity of 97.1 mph this season, down from 98.5 mph in 2021. 

“I’m not paying attention to velocity as much as you guys [reporters] are,” Chapman said Friday through an interpreter. “The reality is that has been my mechanics for a long time, so polishing it’s not going to give me a boost of ‘X’ amount of speed. It is what it is. You’re trying to do your job out there.” 

Blake said Friday that Chapman’s delivery was “getting more consistent” with increased reps, but that testing it in a real game would be the next challenge. 

As for when that would happen, Boone said he wanted to get Chapman into situations in which he could be successful and pitch him “somewhat regularly” — anywhere from low-leverage spots to high-leverage chances, depending on what the games called for. Boone also planned to keep an open line of communication with the veteran reliever. 

“We’ve talked and we’ll continue [to talk],” Boone said. “He deserves that. He’s earned that kind of respect. As we go, we’ll try to be as forthright as we can heading into a game, where we see him. But for right now, it’s just getting him back in. He’s ready for anything.” 

— Additional reporting by Dan Martin