MINNEAPOLIS — The Yankees’ bullpen hardly looked unhittable in the ALDS, and Zack Britton being removed with a right ankle injury in the bottom of the eighth of Game 3 only added to the concern.
And in the clubhouse after Aroldis Chapman got the final five outs of the series-clinching, 5-1 win over the Twins, Chapman had his left hand heavily bandaged, but insisted he was fine.
“I was just celebrating and everyone was jumping around,” Chapman said through an interpreter. “I got hit with a bottle, but it’s fine.”
Brian Cashman said he noticed Chapman’s hand when he fist-bumped the closer.
“He had a huge smile on his face, so I think that was a good sign,” the GM said.
Britton jammed his ankle covering first base on Jorge Polanco’s grounder in the bottom of the seventh.
Trainer Steve Donohue took a look at Britton, but the left-hander remained in the game and got Nelson Cruz on a hard comebacker to end the inning and then allowed a homer to Eddie Rosario to dead center to start the eighth.
Mitch Garver then grounded to short, but before Luis Arraez came to the plate, Donohue went back to the mound to check on Britton and Aaron Boone went to Chapman, who got the final five outs.
Chapman allowed the first two batters on in the ninth before recovering.
As for Britton, he said, “I’ll be fine.”
Britton tore his Achilles tendon in the same leg before the 2018 season, and after he decided to go back to the mound in the eighth, Britton talked to Gary Sanchez.
“This game was too important for me to be out there not 100 percent,” Britton said. “It shouldn’t be anything that bothers me moving forward.”
Chapman has been well-rested, if nothing else.
The closer pitched just 4 1/3 innings over the final month of the season — and that was with Boone using him in the final game of the regular season.
“You want to get in games and have some action,” Chapman said through an interpreter before the game. “But the preparation was the same, just getting ready for whenever the time came up that I needed to get into a game.”
Chapman appreciated the light workload late in the season, which could pay off now.
“I thought he did a great job keeping everybody fresh in the bullpen, especially myself,” Chapman said of the second-year manager, who has often noted the team’s intention to plan for a long run in October — when they will likely lean on all their bullpen arms throughout the playoffs.
“I think I only threw about four innings in September. So, yeah, I feel that we are fresh and ready.”
The key, Chapman said, is staying sharp despite the inactivity.
“It crosses your mind, right?” Chapman said. “You’ve got to pitch to stay sharp. But every day I went out, and I did my work. I was doing it with a purpose to stay sharp because that’s your job. You’ve got to stay sharp, so you’ve got to find a way to do whatever you can to stay ready.”
And while the Yankees have plenty of high-profile names in their pen, perhaps no one is more important than Chapman and he likes the entire relief corps.
“In my humble opinion, I think we’re one of the better bullpens in baseball,” Chapman said. “So there was a lot of excitement, but at the same time, I think being healthy and being able to do our job has been big for us.”