Yankees’ bullpen making huge difference, Chapman to return soon


Outside of three impressive outings from Gerrit Cole and a solid debut from Jordan Montgomery, the Yankees’ rotation has been shaky, with poor showings from James Paxton and J.A. Happ, and a brief start from Masahiro Tanaka.

But beyond the offensive firepower that’s helped the Yankees to the best record in MLB, thehere’s been another reason their starting pitching hasn’t been much of an issue so far in 2020: the bullpen.The relief corps has lived up to expectations, with solid performances from just about the entire pen — including some lesser-known newcomers — despite the loss of Tommy Kahnle.

And the Yankees figure to get a boost in that department soon, with Aroldis Chapman throwing at the team’s alternate site in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre as he prepares to make his season debut following a battle with COVID-19, as well as the even-sooner return of Luis Cessa.

Cessa, who also missed time due to coronavirus, may be back at some point during the Yankees’ series in Philadelphia, which begins Wednesday.

Chapman, meanwhile, was expected to begin throwing bullpens Tuesday or Wednesday, according to manager Aaron Boone.

Chad Green
Chad GreenCharles Wenzelberg/New York Post

In the meantime, while the Yankees have gotten valuable innings from left-hander Luis Avilan and rookie Brooks Kriske and Nick Nelson, their most valuable arms have also impressed.

Chad Green, Zack Britton and Adam Ottavino have all made four appearances and none has given up a run.

Green has been especially dominant, having allowed just a pair of baserunners in 5 ⅔ innings, while striking out nine. And Britton has four saves in place of Chapman.

“Green’s command and feel for his fastball is always there,’’ Boone said. “His curveball has become much more of a factor.”

As for Britton, Boone said his “stuff is as good as any time since he’s been here. And his slider is playing a factor for him.”

Just as important, both have been efficient, which is especially key as the Yankees try to keep their high-leverage arms fresh during this season.

“Those two guys have been huge for us at the back end,’’ Boone said.

With Tuesday’s scheduled game between the Yankees and Phillies that was set to be played in The Bronx moved to part of a Wednesday doubleheader in Philadelphia, the Yankees are set to see the impact of the new rule of a pair of seven-inning games.

“Hey, it’s 2020,” Boone said of the change. “Playing in this environment, we’ve got to be able to adapt to it. I feel like we’ll be able to.”

Tuesday’s off day sets them up a bit better against a team that has still played just one game in over a week due to coronavirus concerns.

“It obviously creates some challenges,’’ Boone said. “The seven-inning situation makes things a bit more manageable. We have the people to get through it.”

J.A. Happ is slated to start one of the games of Wednesday’s twinbill, which is scheduled to begin at 4:05 p.m. with the second game beginning half an hour following the conclusion of the opener.

“We’ll do our best, when that’s in front of us, to try to win games,’’ Boone said. “Obviously, it’s a bit different. It’s hard to know how you’ll attack those days til you’re there.”

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