The Yankees played another Intrasquad game Saturday night at Yankee Stadium in between rain showers. Prior to the game, Aaron Boone met with the media.
Boone announced Saturday that left-handed pitcher and the Yankees closer, Aroldis Chapman, has tested positive for COVID-19 and has mild symptoms. He is not at camp and has not been since Tuesday. Boone says he Chapman will not be at camp for the foreseeable future.
Boone reported that no other players are quarantined at this time. He reassured the media that the Yankees and professional medical staff have gone through all the contact-tracing protocols necessary and that there have been no other positive tests reported.
As a manger, handling COVID-19 situations is a challenge, but it’s one that Boone says he understands he’ll be faced with by coming to the ballpark. Boone stated he understands that the team and the league is going to have to deal with these things along the way and that he has to be prepared to handle any news. Boone says It’s about reminding each other to take smart steps to limit exposure, be vigilant and wear a mask, and to be smart at the field and when away from it. Boone said that COVID can strike at any time and that all the team can do is be prepared and handle cases as they come.
Aaron Hicks spoke with the media this afternoon as well and stated that it’s definitely tough hearing a teammate contracted the virus and that it proves just how safe the organization has to be with making sure everyone’s doing what they need to do to try to stay negative. Hicks hopes that Chapman can get recover well and get back with the team soon.
Hicks reiterated what Boone said if that it’s hard to say that the players and staff knew or expected to go the whole season without a positive and that, unfortunately, it’s a part of what’s going on right now and you can get COVID at any time. J.A. Happ also reiterated that statement, stating that it’s unfortunate that Chapman contracted the Virus, but that the players and staff knew coming in that there was potential. It’s unpredictable and you can’t see it. Hicks stated that everyone is doing everything they can to stay safe. They still communicate with each other with gloves and masks on in the locker room and around the stadium, therefore, you definitely question if you were around the player who tested positive. Happ also stated that there protocols in place and that the players just have to be reminded and held accountable for protecting themselves and their teammates and follow the protocols as best as they can.
Hicks was also questioned if he has any question or doubt that the season will get under way. He stated that no, he is not really questioning that. “I’m going to prepare for my team to get ready for this season,” stated Hicks. “I feel like the only way we don’t have a season is if a lot more teams are trying not to play. My team is ready and motivated to play this year. We haven’t had anyone say we don’t want to play. We’re in a position where we’re getting ourselves ready for the season,” stated Hicks.
James Paxton was also asked about safety and players opting out, and Paxton stated that MLB as a whole may continue to see opt-outs happen as everyone takes this day by day. Specifically asked about Buster Posey opting out, Paxton mentioned Posey’s young kids and each decision being personal.
Paxton reiterated and confirmed that the Yankees’ testing and safety protocols have gone really well at Yankee stadium in the first week. He stated the players are taking it a day at a time and doing the best they can to stay healthy.
Should Chapman not be available for opening day, the Yankees will be left with a gap at their closer position. Boone was asked by the media if Britton would assume the role of closer. Boone did state that Britton would be a natural fit for the role being a late-innings pitcher, however an advantage the Yankees have is of having a deep bullpen. Boone says the coaching staff is confident with a lot of their guys and many of them could fit that role. But Boone did state that Britton would be a natural guy is Chapman isn’t back by that point.
Masahiro Tanaka was back on the field doing some throwing on Saturday. He played catch a couple times and is continuing to respond well. Tanaka is still in concussion protocol and the Yankees are taking it slow with Tanaka to make sure he is ready and healthy to come back. But the Yankees are taking it slow with Tanaka, but continue to be happy with his progress.
James Paxton also talked about Masahiro Tanaka during his press conference and stated that Tanaka seems great and completely normal, looks great, is acting normal, and is, “the same old ‘Mas.”
James Paxton met with the media Saturday afternoon after coming in and throwing on the Yankees’ off-day Friday.
Paxton stated that his session went really well and that he worked on getting his arm-angle up and getting on top of the ball better. He had five ups and threw 65 plus pitches. Boone also stated in his pre-game press conference that Paxton looked really good. Paxton stated that he has no pain in his calf after surgery and that his next step is in finding his velocity that he only gets from game-situations. He stated he knows he’ll be 100 percent when he’s back in the upper-90’s on velocity during a game. However, he stated he feels really good and is making progress each time out.
Paxton was asked about the depth of the Yankees bullpen and stated that they feel really good about their group and have a lot of good pitchers, bullpen arms and starting arm and the staff feels really good about taking this season on.
AARON BOONE POST-GAME:
Aaron Judge was scratched from tonight’s lineup with a stiff neck. Boone stated that he slept weird on it and that it just locked up on him. He was worked on today and is expected to be back in the lineup within a day or two.
Boone stated that part of the reason why you’re trying to strike the balance between understanding that there’s a short amount of time before the regular season starts and the urgency, yet also building the guys up safely are to try to avoid muscles locking up. The guys are in good shape, now it’s about building innings and getting them in game-shape.
Boone was asked if he feels like the hitters are catching up and getting in a groove. He stated that better at-bats are happening and that in Saturday’s game, the guys hit a handful of balls pretty well and the bats were more up to speed in Saturday’s intrasquad game.
The Yankees also used a five-man infield method. Boone stated it will be a Britton thing, or called the “Zach Package.” Boone stated that with Wade in the outfield and even with Hicks, with the right group and matchup at the plate, it would be something that Boone would consider using with Britton on the mound.
Clarke Schmidt came out for his second intrasquad start on Saturday night. Like his last start, Schmidt stated he tries to continue that momentum and mindset into every outing. While he doesn’t want to get too amped up, he feeds off that nervous energy and says it’s a good place to be.
Schmidt says he was happy with his outing tonight, calling it a clean outing, except his last inning. He said his last innings could’ve been a little better. Schmidt says his fastball command was really good, but that he could’ve done a better job of getting strike one. He stated that as he begins to throw a higher percentage of breaking balls and changeups, that that will come. But Schmidt says felt good tonight, and that his arm felt good and felt strong.
Schmidt has always been confident on the mound. He says that wants to continue to find his breaking ball command and that it’s been great so far, with last inning Saturday night slipping a little bit and was a little altered for strikes Saturday night. He also wants to continue to improve his fastball command stating that being able to work it in and out, up and down and to have really good command will lead to success at the big-league level.
Schmidt has also been working a lot more this camp on his two-seam fastball. Schmidt stated that it’s a very strong pitch for forcing ground balls that he likes to go inside on right-handed pitchers to. He did it Saturday night against Gleyber Torres in the form of a ground ball to third that would lead to a double play. Schmidt also said that he is able to produce more swings and misses with his two-seam and that with focusing on that pitch more, he’ll miss more barrels and bats and gets swings and misses. His goal is to freeze guys with his two-seam fastball.
J.A. Happ met with the media following his intrasquad matchup Saturday night. Happ stated that it took him a little while to settle in Saturday night. He stated he was able to execute on some pitches with deep counts before he was able to really execute. He stated his second and third inning he pressed the issue more and was getting strike one more and forcing contact.
The Yankees will be playing a Sunday Instrasquad Day-Game at Yankee Stadium on Sunday. First pitch will be at 2:05PM. Gerritt Cole and Michael King will take the mound for the Yankees and the Bombers Sunday afternoon.