MARK DIDTLER, Associated Press
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Aroldis Chapman is focusing on his return to the New York Yankees, not the World Series ring he earned with the Chicago Cubs.
“I’m here now,” Chapman said through a translator Wednesday before the Yankees’ first spring training workout. “We have a job to be done here. It was kind of like a chapter in my career I turn over and look to the future now.”
New York obtained Chapman in a December 2015 trade with Cincinnati, then dealt the hard-throwing left-hander to the Cubs on July 25 for Adam Warren and three minor leaguers.
After helping the Cubs win their first NL pennant since 1945, Chapman played a key role as Chicago ended a World Series drought dating to 1908. He became a free agent and signed an $86 million, five-year deal with the Yankees, the richest contract for a reliever.
“I definitely enjoyed it to the maximum, but not only me but my family, my friends,” Chapman said of his time in Chicago. “They were part of it, too. To be part of a team that won the World Series, the team hadn’t won the World Series in 108 years, that’s fantastic. That’s definitely an experience I’ll never forget.”
Chapman will have the opportunity to bring his 100 mph-plus fastball back to Wrigley Field when New York plays a three-game series against the Cubs from May 5-7. He sees some similarity between the 2017 Yankees and last year’s Cubs, who combined an influx of youth with veterans.
“I’ve seen a lot of teams do this,” Chapman said. “We just saw it happen with Chicago. This is going to be a very good thing. I’m really looking forward to being a part of this youth movement.”
The Baby Bombers youth movement began last summer when catcher Gary Sanchez, outfielder Aaron Judge and first baseman/outfielder Tyler Austin were brought up. Greg Bird, sidelined with a shoulder injury for all of last season, is Mark Teixeira’s likely replacement at first base.
After failing to recover from a 9-17 start last year, the Yankees’ makeover began when Chapman, Andrew Miller and Carlos Beltran were dealt primarily for prospects, and when Alex Rodriguez was released. New York remained on the periphery of the playoff contention before fading to a fourth-place finish at 84-78, four games back of the second wild card.
Chapman said the extra month of pitching last year is not an issue. He appeared in the final three games of the Cubs’ World Series win over Cleveland, including a 2 2/3 innings save in Game 5. He got the victory in Chicago’s 10-inning Game 7 win after allowing Rajai Davis tying homer in the eighth.
“I worked really hard in the offseason,” Chapman said. “Worked on my body a lot. I feel good. I feel ready.”