Aroldis Chapman thought the three-game suspension he received on Wednesday was harsh, but the gas-throwing closer admitted the optics of him throwing a 101 mph fastball over Mike Brosseau’s head Tuesday night in the latest incident between the Rays and Yankees didn’t look good.
And, as most pitchers do, Chapman insisted he wasn’t trying to hit the right-handed batter.
“I understand, the velocity of the pitch and how close, yeah it looks bad. That is obvious,’’ Chapman said through an interpreter before the Rays and Yankees played the finale of a three-game series and for the last time in the regular season. “But I can tell you right now I had no intention of hitting anybody.’’
Aaron Boone and Rays manager Kevin Cash each were suspended for one game.
Chapman, who posted his first save in Tuesday night’s 5-3 win, appealed the three-game ban and was expected to be eligible for Wednesday night’s game.
Chapman pointed to his career statistics to prove he doesn’t use a triple-digit fastball to hit batters. He has plunked 26 in 11 years. Instead, Chapman referenced a battle to throw more strikes with it.
“Fastball command has been something I have been dealing with all year,’’ said Chapman, who wasn’t activated from the COVID-19 injured list until Aug. 17, has appeared in four games and said the lack of fastball command wasn’t due to a physical problem but a technical issue. “It has been a fight for me. There have been moments where I had to take 5, 6 miles off my fastball just to try and get that command. It is unfortunate it happens, but like I said there was never any intention to hit anybody.’’
Boone, who didn’t manage the Yankees on Wednesday night (bench coach Carlos Mendoza handled that chore), said there was no reason for him and Cash to talk about Cash’s harsh postgame criticism of Boone.
“It’s poor judgment, poor coaching, poor teaching,’’ Cash said. “I got a whole damn stable of guys that throw 98 mph. Period.’’
Om Wednesday, Boone said, “If we do, it won’t be any issue, but I don’t feel a need to.’’
Nor did Boone say he was offended by Cash’s harsh words.
“Not at all. I am to take offense for someone popping off in the heat of the moment? No chance,’’ Boone said. “And [Wednesday night] will give me time to reflect on that a little bit and tighten up my coaching techniques.’’
Since Monday night’s incident was the latest show of bad blood between the AL East rivals — the Rays started the night 3 ½ games up on the second-place Yankees — the harsh feelings for each other aren’t likely to vanish.
Boone pointed to DJ LeMahieu having been pitched up and in several times and explained the last thing the Yankees wanted to do was injure somebody.
“Both teams are professional enough to know we are playing for a lot. Even though there have been a few of these incidents where the blood gets boiling obviously and tempers flare a little bit, I think both teams are smart enough and good enough to realize to get the job done on the field,’’ Boone said. “That’s our main focus and I am sure it is with them as well. Hopefully this is something that can be behind us and it can be about two good teams going at it on the field.’’
That, however, remains to be seen. The Rays revel in beating the Yankees — they were 7-2 against the Yankees entering Wednesday night’s action. And they haven’t strayed from their pitching doctrine to throw fastballs up and in. And they like to respond to the Yankees’ dugout chirping with more chirping.
In a lot of ways it is too bad the Yankees and Rays are done playing because they have certainly added spice to a very bland season so far. Of course, it would be nice if they met in the postseason when the stakes are a lot higher.