OAKLAND — Dressed to the nines in a blue suit, Aroldis Chapman smiled and slapped fives with his teammates after entering the Yankees’ clubhouse on Sunday morning.
After missing more than a month due to inflammation in his rotator cuff, Chapman is back and ready to take over the closer’s role.
“My team needs me,” Chapman said.
Chapman was placed on the disabled list in mid-May.
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Dellin Betances was excellent in place of Chapman, but the team’s middle relief corps struggled in expanded roles.
Chapman had a shaky rehab outing with Double-A Trenton on Friday, but says he’s healthy and was happy with where his velocity is at.
Joe Girardi said before Sunday’s game that Chapman will definitely get a chance to pitch on his first day back, regardless of the score.
Chapman flew cross country just for one game, prompting some criticism. But Girardi fired back.
“I just think that if you’re a player that is being paid to play when you’re eligible, you show up,” Girardi said. “This is something that I’ve heard from a couple different people about. ‘You’re going to fly him across country for one day?’ How many divisions have been lost by one game in the course of history? How many playoff spots have not been guaranteed because of one game?
“Yeah, it’s not ideal to be all the way out here,” Girardi continued. “But he had a travel day where he didn’t play and all of our other players had a travel day where they played that day. If you have people available who are the best, you want them here.”
Prior to landing on the disabled list, Chapman had seven saves in eight chances, allowing five runs over 12.2 innings while striking out 21 batters.
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