New York Yankee closer Aroldis Chapman didn’t look up to snuff Tuesday night when he entered the game in the 12th inning to try to close down the Marlins. The first indicator something was off was that his velocity was down in the 96-97 MPH range. Then he issued a leadoff walk to Isaac Galloway, and his first pitch to Rafael Ortega was a ball high and wide. After that, it was obvious Chapman was hurt again as he signaled the mound to have someone come pull him.
For the Yankees, this is just more bad news on top of a mounting pile of injuries. Chapman has been dealing with knee tendinitis all season, and despite receiving treatments for it, he has become erratic, unreliable, and physically less capable of the closer role as the season has progressed. Manager Aaron Boone said in a post-game press conference covered by NJ Advance Media that Chapman would undergo testing on Wednesday and that he couldn’t say much more until his results are in from the hospital.
What he could say is that Chapman’s knee is hurting in the same spot it previously was. The same spot that bought him a 12-day rest around the All-Star break and that began nagging him when the season was still in its infancy. Analysts worry that Chapman may not make it to the end of the season as the time between flare-ups this significant is getting shorter, and the recovery time for each is getting longer.
If Chapman is lost for any significant period of time, it is a problem for the Yankees. David Robertson is an experienced closer, but he was unavailable last night due to shoulder soreness. While he is expected back tonight, any time a pitcher is dealing with shoulder soreness there is at least reason for concern. Zach Britton can close, but since joining the Yankees, he has had his own struggles with an ERA north of 5.00 and no saves in 10 innings of work, as recorded at Baseball Reference.
The problem this presents for New York, even in the very short term, is it will force them to rely on starters to go deeper each time they take the ball, which may not be very realistic right now. The logic flow is that if Chapman goes on the 10-day DL, or simply isn’t available for a few games, that makes Robertson the closer assuming his shoulder is up to it. Britton slides into the setup role, and Tommy Kahnle moves from pitching the sixth inning to the seventh, meaning Sonny Gray becomes the primary multi-inning reliever. It doesn’t sound bad, but it is a scenario no one wants.
While Lance Lynn and J.A. Happ look good to go for six innings, possibly a bit of the seventh frame even, Masahiro Tanaka has been less reliable in that regard. C.C. Sabathia will be coming off the DL from his knee problems, and Luis Severino looked good in his last outing but needs to show he can do it back to back again. Any instance of a starter getting knocked out early can rapidly deplete the Yankee pen, not only hurting them immediately but the following day as well when they will need a break.