Yankees, Aroldis Chapman finally move toward role change for 2022
Is Aroldis Chapman still the closer of the New York Yankees? Yes. On most days. You can take that to the bank. Except when it’s closed on weekends.
But, for the first time we can recall, Aaron Boone told the New York Post and gathered media this week that the Yankees have talked with the ninth-inning stalwart and occasionally plan to deploy him in the eighth inning as well.
Demotion? Far from it, unfortunately. According to Boone, this was seen as a quick-and-dirty way to take pressure off other tired arms and maximize Chapman’s usefulness. If, say, a week goes by without a perfect opportunity to deploy him, Boone would rather use his closer in a tight game in the eighth rather than the ninth inning of a 12-1 ballgame.
In the past, this apparent inflexibility and deference to Chapman has led to rust accruing during the season — not to mention severe burnout of the other late-inning options, which was obvious in Chad Green’s profile and not so clear on Jonathan Loaisiga’s ledger (until he got injured, of course).
The explicit reason behind the shift? Boone might want to load up righty arms for the righty-heavy Blue Jays and, say, use Chapman the day prior while resting Loaisiga and Green.
The implicit reason? Maybe it’s time we all got a little less rigid with our set closer roles in case, say, Chapman struggles.
Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman will pitch the eighth inning sometimes in 2022.
At the very least, Chapman’s deal is ending after 2022, so it’s time to begin to get some ducks in order. Whether or not you believe Jonathan Loaisiga is next in line for the throne, a little flexibility never hurt anybody.
Whether the perception was fair or not, it always seemed like Chapman’s stubbornness would get in the way of any wiggle room here. Now, apparently, that’s not true.
Chapman’s 2021 was his oddest season yet in pinstripes — and that includes two years that ended with him on the mound in the postseason. He was more dominant than we’d ever seen him (somehow) in April and May, unveiling a splitter that was arguably deadlier than his fastball had been since its 104 MPH halcyon days.
Then, things fell apart — “things” meaning his fingernail? Who knows? We’ll never know. The enigmatic Chapman never quite made it further than 75% of the way back up the mountaintop at any point over the course of the year, and the garishness of his midsummer meltdown made it feel like the time was already upon us to swap Loaisiga in there permanently.
That won’t happen in 2022, either. But at least both sides have acknowledged that, when it makes sense, Chapman will get run earlier than the ninth and Loaisiga will attack a Toronto lineup he’s uniquely suited to level.