New York Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman says he has recovered from the left knee tendinitis that bothered him during much of last season.
Chapman threw 21 pitches during a four-batter simulated game appearance on Thursday, his 31st birthday. The left-hander struck out three, including Giancarlo Stanton, and induced Gary Sanchez to hit a broken-bat grounder.
Chapman started feeling pain in the knee last May and went on the disabled list from Aug. 22 to Sept. 19.
“I’m healthy and feel really good,” Chapman said through a translator. “I felt normal out there. Everything went well.”
He was 3-0 with 32 saves and a 2.45 ERA over 55 appearances last year, averaging 99 mph with his fastball, down from 100 the previous year and 101 in 2017.
“It’s definitely not ideal to pitch like that, but at the end of the day I need to do my job and help my team,” Chapman said. “The good thing about all this is that this is in the past.”
Chapman was joined on the mound by Luis Severino in the simulated game, played in front of about 20 fans on a back field at Steinbrenner Field four hours before a scheduled game against Pittsburgh.
Severino, the expected opening-day starter March 28 against Baltimore, snagged a hard-hit, one-hopper off the bat of Stanton at his belt.
“I’ve got great hands,” a smiling Severino said.
Severino threw 39 pitchers over two innings, striking out Stanton twice. Sanchez had the lone hit — a single — off Severino but also struck out against the right-hander.
Sanchez, coming back from left shoulder surgery on Nov. 8, is expected to play in his first spring training game Friday night. The catcher hit .186 with 18 homers and 53 RBIs in 89 games last year, making two trips to the disabled list because of a right groin strain.
CC Sabathia is scheduled to throw off a bullpen mound for the first time this year on Friday. The 38-yard old left-hander, who is retiring after the season, had a stent inserted in December after a blockage was found in an artery. He also has had chronic right knee problems that have required several operations.
The closest J.A. Happ came to violating the 20-pitch clock in a 1 1/3-inning, 38-pitch spring training debut against the Pirates was with 4 seconds remaining to Corey Dickerson during the first inning. At 22.0 seconds between pitches last year, Happ ranked 21st out of 78 with 150 or more innings, according to Fangraphs.
Reliever Adam Ottavino, who this season will become the first Yankee to wear No. 0, struggled in his first spring training appearance. The right-hander allowed two runs, two hits, one walk and had a strikeout over one inning.