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Chapman feels healthy, ready for consistent '18

Sabathia says Astros should feel like they're favorites in American League
Special to MLB.com

TAMPA -- Aroldis Chapman feels like he made the necessary adjustments during the offseason to ensure a healthier 2018, as he looks to avoid some of the rough stretches he went through last season.

Chapman was removed from his closer role in August after an ineffective stretch, but he regained the role three weeks later as the Yankees made their stretch run toward the postseason. He finished the season with a 3.22 ERA, the second highest of his career.

TAMPA -- Aroldis Chapman feels like he made the necessary adjustments during the offseason to ensure a healthier 2018, as he looks to avoid some of the rough stretches he went through last season.

Chapman was removed from his closer role in August after an ineffective stretch, but he regained the role three weeks later as the Yankees made their stretch run toward the postseason. He finished the season with a 3.22 ERA, the second highest of his career.

"I worked a lot on my shoulder and my arm," Chapman said through a translator. "I want to become stronger and have more stamina to prevent injuries and fatigue."

Chapman did not want to blame his high usage rate from 2016 for his struggles in '17. He appeared in 72 games, including the postseason between the Yankees and Cubs. Chapman was often used for multiple innings during the Cubs' run to a World Series championship in 2016.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"Chicago is two years ago, so I couldn't blame that," Chapman said. "I have a little fatigue on my shoulder, but at the end, I was able to get back to myself."

Chapman doesn't plan on slowing down his workload during Spring Training to preserve his shoulder. New Yankees manager Aaron Boone said he'll play it by ear, but he doesn't plan on being overly cautious.

"Certainly some of our veteran guys are known commodities, if you will," Boone said. "I don't know if we'll go slow with him because he's in a great place right now physically."

Video: Aroldis Chapman is the No. 8 relief pitcher right now

Sabathia agrees with Verlander
While some have labeled the Yankees as the favorites in the American League, Justin Verlander has had his say, and he disagrees. CC Sabathia says he can't blame the Astros' right-hander for feeling that way.

Verlander, the Most Valuable Player of the 2017 American League Championship Series presented by Camping World, said, "Obviously I think we're the team to beat. I don't really care about [someone's] opinion. I think the American League goes through us."

Sabathia said Verlander was right to say what he did and that the Astros deserve respect as the defending World Series champions.

"Obviously they won the World Series, so he has every right to say that," Sabathia said. "He should feel like that."

• Sabathia ready to embrace leadership role

Boone values Green in relief
Yankees reliever Chad Green carved out a role as a dominant middle reliever last season, and Boone sees no reason to change that, although he wants the right-hander to be ready for other situations, if necessary.

Green has been a starter and long reliever throughout his two years with the Yankees. Last year, he registered a 1.83 ERA in 40 appearances, striking out 103 while walking 17 in 69 innings.

"Obviously we're going to stretch him out, because it's a lot easier to go the other way and we know what we have going the other way," Boone said. "It would obviously have to take a lot [to change his role], given that he filled such a valuable role last year. I think that will be something that plays itself out."

Video: Chad Green is the No. 4 relief pitcher right now

Other notes
• Boone said he feels like the bullpen is fairly set and the Yankees have up to 10 guys that could have an impact in relief.

"We're about trying to create competition and get guys in position so that if somebody does go down or we do have a need, guys are ready to come in and take a significant role to keep our bullpen where we think it should be," Boone said.

• Sabathia came into the clubhouse with his left ankle heavily taped after he turned it Wednesday. The veteran southpaw said it's not a concern, and he expects to throw a bullpen session on Friday.

• Boone expects right-hander Sonny Gray to make adjustments if pace-of-play rules are implemented. Gray was last in the Majors in time in between pitches.

"When certain rules come down, it sounds overwhelming, but I think these guys, the reason they're here and the reason they are the caliber player they are is you have to have the ability to make adjustments."

Ralph Long is a contributor to MLB.com based in Tampa.

New York Yankees, Aroldis Chapman