TAMPA, Fla. -- The final snapshot of Aroldis Chapman's 2019 season was a slow trudge off the field as Houston’s Minute Maid Park erupted in celebration, a bemused smirk spilling across his face. The Yankees closer isn’t sure if José Altuve knew that a slider was coming on that pennant-deciding
TAMPA, Fla. -- The final snapshot of Aroldis Chapman's 2019 season was a slow trudge off the field as Houston’s Minute Maid Park erupted in celebration, a bemused smirk spilling across his face. The Yankees closer isn’t sure if José Altuve knew that a slider was coming on that pennant-deciding pitch in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series, but he’d be interested to find out.
“There’s a lot of speculation about it,” Chapman said through an interpreter on Thursday. “A lot of people have many different opinions about it. At the end of the day, like I did before, I accept responsibility for how the events developed. I gave up the homer and we lost, that's the bottom line. I was the pitcher on the mound, I was the guy facing Altuve.”
Though Altuve has denied using any type of electronic device, Chapman said that he has viewed the video of Altuve telling his teammates not to remove his jersey as he approached home plate.
“I think a lot of people have seen that video. It’s a popular video right now,” Chapman said. “If you look at his actions, it's a little suspicious, right? But at the end of the day, I just don't know.”
In response to Commissioner Rob Manfred’s report detailing the Astros’ 2017 activities, Chapman added that he believes Houston’s sign-stealing “was the extra edge that allowed them to move on” in that ALCS against the Yankees. Chapman said that he appreciated the public apology from the Twins’ Marwin Gonzalez, a member of that ’17 Astros club.
“For Marwin to take that step, that takes courage to do that,” Chapman said. “That’s an example for all those guys. The findings of the investigation there, there's no hiding about that. I think they should follow his steps and really take some action. At the end of the day, you really have to apologize to the fans. They are the ones watching it, seeing how everything has developed. It put baseball in a bad spot.”
The Yankees’ major offseason move was the nine-year, $324 million contract that Gerrit Cole landed in December, but Chapman’s contract restructuring was also an important piece of the winter plan. Chapman renegotiated his deal into a three-year, $48 million pact, bypassing the right to opt out and become a free agent. Chapman’s new contract includes annual salaries of $16 million and a full no-trade provision.
“It was no secret I wanted to stay here; you guys know that,” Chapman said. “I had clear intentions of staying with the team. We got to the negotiation table quickly, sat down, we talked. We got on the same page and we got it done quick.”
Eight days after undergoing back surgery, left-hander James Paxton said that he expects to resume throwing in four to six weeks and that a May return to the Majors is possible. Paxton underwent a microscopic lumbar discectomy and had a peridiscal cyst removed on Feb. 5, addressing sciatic pain in his left leg that started last September.
“I wish I could have had it done in October; we just didn't know exactly what was happening then,” Paxton said. “I think that I'd rather have it happen now than midseason and miss a full three months of the season. This way, I'll hopefully only miss a month or so.”
Paxton was able to pitch in the postseason with the discomfort, including a six-inning gem in Game 5 of the ALCS against the Astros, but he revealed that he traveled to New York for injections in November as the pain increased. After several attempts at conservative treatment failed, a procedure was performed by Dr. Andrew Dossett in Dallas, Texas.
“It was pretty bad there in November, probably the worst point,” Paxton said. “We were trying to figure out what was going on, so I flew back to New York, saw the back doctor and tried some different things. I got a couple different injections, trying to figure out if that would get it or not, but it took until January to find out exactly what was going on.”
New rules, I count ‘em
Major League Baseball has formally announced the institution of a three-batter minimum for pitchers in 2020, though manager Aaron Boone said that he does not expect the new rule to alter his in-game approach. All pitchers must face at least three batters (or pitch until the inning is over) before they exit a game. The only exception is an injury or illness that prevents the pitcher from being able to face three batters.
“For us, I don’t think much changes, especially during the regular season,” Boone said. “Most of our pitchers, especially our relievers, have a skill set that’s designed to get out both handed [hitters] anyway. Moreso than most clubs, we’re probably equipped to transition to this rule seamlessly, and I don’t expect it to have a huge effect. There’s going to be a game that comes up when it’s not ideal, a guy’s finishing off an inning and you’d like to have him out of there after a batter or two, but that’s something we’re all going to have to deal with. Overall, it’s something that hopefully should benefit us a little bit.”
Yankees pitchers and catchers will continue to work out on Friday at Steinbrenner Field. Admission is free for all workouts through March 20, and gates will open to fans at approximately 10 a.m. ET.
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and Facebook.