Baseball fans in New Jersey were treated to a member of the New York Yankees taking the mound on Friday night. As Aroldis Chapman works his way back from a shoulder injury, the closer took the mound in the first inning for the Trenton Thunder on an overcast evening.
This writer was lucky enough to be in attendance for the game, directly behind the plate. With several scouts in front of me, there were multiple radar guns set to light up with triple digits for the first inning of the game. Entering the game, the plan was to have Chapman go the first inning, before departing the game.
But things did not go entirely to plan. Chapman opened the game with a four-pitch walk to Ross Kivett, the leadoff man for the Erie Seawolves. It was evident right off the bat, the command simply was not quite there on this particular day.
While Chapman would go on to strikeout the next batter with a 100-mph fastball, his command was still extremely shaky. There were multiple wild pitches thrown by Chapman in his short stint on the mound. When all was said and done, Chapman threw 18 pitches and was pulled after two-thirds of an inning.
Going into the game, the plan was to activate Chapman on Sunday in Oakland, where he could make his triumphant return against the Athletics. To my knowledge, that is still the plan for the pinstripers. But after seeing the tall pitcher in person Friday evening, I am left questioning if he should get one more game in the minors.
The last thing you want to do is bring back a closer who simply has not honed in on his command following any form of arm issue. Any game he is brought into, it will be with the intent to shut the door. Doors can’t be shut when you throw nearly double the number of balls compared to strikes.
That is the gamble the Yankees will be taking if they do in fact active Aroldis tomorrow.