Traded to the Chicago Cubs late last July, Aroldis Chapman remained linked to the Yankees bullpen via cellphone.
Dellin Betances kept in touch with Chapman through texts and occasional calls as the Cubs marched toward October. "And I spoke to him in the offseason, before he signed," Betances said. "I knew he wanted to be here."
Denizens of Wrigleyville will forever celebrate Chapman and his 2016 teammates for delivering the Cubs' first world championship in 108 years. But in just a half-season in pinstripes, the flame-throwing lefty found a real home in the Bronx and valuable friends like Betances.
"My time (as a Yankee) really helped me on my social skills with my teammates," Chapman said.
Chapman, who turns 29 today, described feeling guarded during his first six big-league seasons with the Cincinnati Reds, after defecting from Cuba.
"With Cincinnati, I was a little more shy, more quiet. I was alone most of the time. And a little of that had to do with language," Chapman said. "But when I came here, having the opportunity to talk with more guys - both American and Latin - definitely helped me with my relationship here in the clubhouse.
"I feel more comfortable with the guys here, I can talk to them. My English is not the best, but I do the best I can to communicate. That was what helped me most during my time here with the Yankees."
Chapman had arrived in Yankees Universe last spring during a tempest.
A disquieting episode at his Miami home in October 2015 led to a 30-game suspension for violating MLB's domestic violence policy. Unsure of what awaited him at Steinbrenner Field, Chapman was grateful to find a supportive atmosphere.
"The guy I met is a guy that likes to laugh, fool around and have a good time," Betances said. "As teammates for him, we were there just making sure he'd feel as comfortable he can."
By mid-June, the electric, late-game bullpen trio of Betances, Andrew Miller and Chapman had a marketable nickname - No Runs DMC - being sold on T-shirts around Yankee Stadium.
But Chapman's pending free agency made him expendable on an otherwise mediocre Yankee team. Miller and Carlos Beltran soon followed him, all dealt for a prospect haul that included the highly-rated infielder Gleyber Torres, outfielder Clint Frazier and lefty Justus Sheffield.
The kids have brought a new hope and energy to Yankees' camp, though "it feels different without a lot of the guys," Betances said. "It took a couple three or four days to get used to it.
"At times you miss some of those voices, Andrew, (Brian) McCann, Beltran, A-Rod, Tex (Mark Teixeira)," Betances said. "When you look around and don't see them anymore, it's kind of weird."
Betances' spring became even weirder upon arrival last week, when Yankees president Randy Levine called Betances "the victim" of his agents' attempt to re-set the established market for setup relievers through arbitration.
And that came after the right-hander had lost his arbitration case; he'll earn $3 million in 2017 instead of his requested salary of $5 million.
Chapman turned down a higher bid by the Miami Marlins to sign a five-year, $86 million Yankees contract, with no-trade provisions. That deal also ended Betances' short-lived role as the Yanks' closer, but Betances said he's genuinely happy that Chapman is back.
"Anytime you get an arm like that, it helps the whole team out," Betances said. "Trying to win a championship, that's what it's all about."
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