The Yankees and their loaded bullpen clenched their teeth for a moment on Saturday night when closer Aroldis Chapman left the game after striking out Randal Grichuk to start the bottom of the ninth. Chapman was clearly limping after firing the third strike to Grichuk, and winced as he left the field. Later, the Yankees announced it was an aggravation of the knee tendinitis that their closer has been dealing with for a good portion of the season.
Chapman’s recovery time is still up in the air, but if he has to miss any length of time, the Yankees will be without their dynamic lefty who has struck out 66 batters in 38 innings so far this season. Should Chapman need to rest his ailing left knee (which happens to be his plant leg), the Yankees will need to appoint a temporary closer. So the question is, who’s it gonna be?
David Robertson immediately comes to mind. His ERA (3.35) is not where he wants it to be after a stellar 2017 season. However, he has the closing experience, specifically in the Bronx, where he was the closer for the 2014 season after Mariano Rivera retired. Robertson has the poise to get out of tricky situations, and his vicious curveball can force a big strikeout when needed. Looking over his resume, Robertson looks like a top candidate for the temporary job.
What about Dellin Betances? The big right-hander might be considered a dark horse to close games despite his amazing numbers this season, but Aaron Boone and the Yankees should give Betances a closer look if they have to replace Chapman. Betances has been truly elite this season, bouncing back from a rocky start to become virtually unhittable.
Dellin Betances Last 18 Games:— Katie Sharp (@ktsharp) July 7, 2018
67 batters faced
Those numbers are just plain ridiculous. Just three hits in almost two full games worth of work, while averaging almost two strikeouts per inning. Over these past 18 appearances, Betances has conquered his woes of dealing with runners on base, and has even dialed up the effectiveness when there are ducks on the pond. Sure, he might not be on the same scale as Robertson when it comes to navigating out of trouble, but hitters are having enough problems just reaching base against Betances right now.
Last year also showed fans a glimpse of what Betances could be as a closer. Chapman missed over a month of the season with inflammation in his shoulder, and Betances stepped in beautifully. In ten innings of work as the team’s interim closer last season, Betances didn’t allow a single earned run, while striking out 19 and holding opposing hitters to a .114 slugging percentage. By the time Chapman returned, Betances had his season ERA down to 0.42. Not a bad audition.
The Yankees likely can’t go wrong with either Betances or Robertson, but they should make sure that Betances gets plenty of consideration. Robertson has Betances beat in the experience department, but not many relievers in baseball are throwing better than Betances right now.