TAMPA, Fla. — Aroldis Chapman hardly is bitter about his time in Chicago last season. Speaking with reporters Wednesday in the Yankees’ spring-training clubhouse, Chapman said he enjoyed his three-plus months with the Cubs “to the maximum.”
“To be part of a team that won the World Series for the first time in 108 years, it was fantastic,” he said. “It’s definitely something I’ll never forget.”
Yet in one-on-one comments to the Sun-Times, Chapman, the fireballing left-handed closer who saved 16 regular-season games for the Cubs and four more during the playoffs, was a tad less rah-rah.
After signing with the Yankees in December for five years and $86 million — a record amount for a major-league reliever — Chapman was honest with the media about how he was used in the World Series by Cubs manager Joe Maddon. He didn’t believe he should have pitched in Game 6, with the Cubs leading comfortably, after he’d gotten eight outs in a monstrous stretch of duty in Game 5.
“The way he used me during the playoffs, I believe there were a couple of times where maybe I shouldn’t have been put in the game, and he put me in,” Chapman said then. “Personally, I don’t agree with the way he used me. But he’s the manager, and he has the strategy.”
Of course, many agree with Chapman that his Game 7 performance — in which he allowed three runs as the Indians tied the game in the eighth inning — was adversely affected by his extended use. But some accused him of being ungracious by saying so publicly.
“I was just being truthful about how I felt,’’ he told the Sun-Times on Wednesday through an interpreter. ‘‘I know how I felt physically at the time. No matter what you do, people will always criticize you one way or another.”
Further, Chapman still doesn’t quite understand why Maddon chose not to turn to some of his other relievers.
“As far as Chicago and the bullpen, they have really good arms out there,” he said. “Maybe now, at least they’ll get their opportunity. But maybe during the World Series, they should’ve gotten a chance, as well.”
Chapman stressed that he wasn’t intending to be disrespectful and that he enjoyed seeing his former teammates — and Maddon — last month at the White House, where the championship Cubs were welcomed by then-President Barack Obama.
“I saw him at the White House,’’ Maddon said Tuesday in Mesa, Arizona. ‘‘The first thing he did was give me a big hug. And we talked. Just talked about stuff. I wasn’t there [during Chapman’s initial meeting with New York reporters]. I’m sure he didn’t say all those words in English himself, so there might have been something lost in the translation. And even if it wasn’t, it doesn’t bother me in the least.”
Chapman, two weeks from his 29th birthday, is a fan of the way things are done in the Yankees’ organization. Think: fewer pajama parties, more formality.
“I like the way things are done here and the teammates I have,” he said. “I like the structure.”
Not that he didn’t enjoy the fun environment with the Cubs. Chapman built a few lasting friendships in Chicago and — needless to say — had a baseball thrill ride unlike any other.
“Game 7 was amazing,” he said. “It was Game 7 — the biggest game of my life.”
Follow me on Twitter @SLGreenberg.