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Aroldis Chapman Loses Control in Postseason Audition

Sunday could have been the former closer’s last game in pinstripes.

If Aroldis Chapman made his final appearance in pinstripes Sunday, he didn’t leave the Yankee Stadium crowd with a positive memory.

The left-hander faced five hitters and allowed four to reach base in the seventh inning of New York’s 3-1 defeat at the hands of the Orioles. Chapman allowed one hit, two earned runs and three walks – including a bases-loaded pass to Gunnar Henderson that forced in the go-ahead run – before taking the loss in the Yankees’ final home game of the season.

Afterward, Chapman didn’t have a specific explanation for his erratic outing.

“Nothing in particular,” the 34-year-old said through an interpreter when asked about his control issues. “Haven’t been executing consistent strikes. Been something that has happened to me this season.”

While manager Aaron Boone downplayed Chapman’s performance – “I didn’t feel like he lost the zone or anything too much” – the pitcher’s afternoon hardly surprised amid a season plagued by declining numbers and stints on the injured list.

Chapman, who lost his job as the Yankees’ closer earlier this season, saw his ERA jump to 4.58 on Sunday. After the New York Post previously reported that the team was considering designating Chapman for assignment, the afternoon doubled as a postseason roster audition.

Chapman didn’t exactly make a compelling case for the part.

“I don’t [make] those decisions,” he said when asked if he’s been good enough to crack New York’s playoff squad.

An impending free agent and presumed goner, Chapman doesn’t have much time left to convince anyone that he is deserving of an extension on his Yankees career. New York has four games left in Texas before the regular season ends. The team will then have to make some tough decisions before the American League Division Series starts on Oct. 11.

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If the decision on Chapman were solely based on the pitcher’s results, it would be an easy one for Boone and company. But the veteran could squeeze his way onto the postseason roster thanks to the uncertain statuses of other relievers.

The Yankees just shut Zack Britton down for the season with left arm fatigue following his recovery from Tommy John surgery. Clay Holmes, meanwhile, hopes to be ready for the ALDS after a shoulder issue prematurely ended his regular season. Ron Marinaccio left Sunday’s game with a shin issue, though the Yankees don’t believe that is serious. Wandy Peralta will throw to live hitters in Somerset this week instead of rejoining the team in Texas after left thoracic spine tightness landed him on the I.L., while Miguel Castro will be activated Monday after shoulder trouble sidelined him in July.

Albert Abreu could also be an option for New York.

“We’ll continue to look for spots to get guys in and make evaluations,” Boone said Sunday.

While the Yankees still have a few games to figure out their pen, it’s become clear that Boone does not – and should not – trust Chapman in high-leverage situations. The skipper was asked if he could do exactly that last Sunday, to which he replied, “Well, we’ll see,” before specifying that Chapman has mostly pitched in low- and medium-leverage situations lately.

Chapman’s outing against the Orioles should have shown Boone all he needed to see. Now it’s a matter of what alternatives the Yankees will have available for the playoffs.

If enough of New York’s other relievers are healthy, Chapman’s Yankees tenure could end when the ALDS begins.


Follow Gary Phillips on Twitter (@GaryHPhillips). Be sure to bookmark Inside The Pinstripes and check back daily for news, analysis and more.