TAMPA, Fla. — A day after accepting a 30-game suspension, New York Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman has apologized for using a gun and insisted he never hurt his girlfriend.
Chapman agreed to the penalty, assessed by Major League Baseball under its new domestic violence policy.
His girlfriend, 22-year-old Cristina Barnea, told police he pushed and choked her during an Oct. 30 incident at his home in Davie. Florida. Chapman said there was an argument but he was pushed down by Barnea’s brother, then got a handgun and fired eight shots into a wall and window while locked in his garage.
Prosecutors declined to file charges, citing conflicting accounts.
“I want to take this opportunity, I want this to be clear, I’m apologizing because the use of the gun,” Chapman said Wednesday before the Yankees’ spring training opener. “It was bad judgment on my part. But I also want to say that I never hurt my girlfriend. I want this to be very clear. I’m taking this punishment because of my bad judgment, something that I definitely want to put behind me.”
Chapman said he no longer has a gun.
“I think the lesson is very clear to everybody,” Chapman said. “You have to be able to make better judgment in certain situations. At the same time, I want to take this opportunity to put this behind me. I really don’t want to keep talking about this, creating a distraction not only for me, for my family and teammates. I want to concentrate on baseball, which is the best thing I know how to do and help this team win a championship.”
Under the discipline announced Tuesday, the four-time All-Star will serve the penalty from the start of the Yankees’ season on April 4. He will lose 30 days of pay — $1,856,557 of his $11,325,000 salary. The agreement specifies he will be eligible for free agency after this season barring any additional suspension for off-the-field conduct that would cost him the necessary service time.
Chapman said the free-agent situation played a role in his decision to reach an agreement.
“I think that this was an example of all parties working towards a really strong and beneficial solution for trying to avoid circumstances and eliminate them as we move forward,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said.
Chapman, the hardest-throwing pitcher in the major leagues, was traded from the rebuilding Cincinnati Reds to the Yankees in December. He forms a powerful back end of the bullpen along with former closer Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances.
Chapman can continue to participate in all spring training activities. The penalty starts when the Yankees open the season April 4 at home against Houston. Barring rainouts, he would be eligible to start his season May 9 when the Yankees host World Series champion Kansas City.
Chapman said he will work out at the Yankees’ minor league complex in Florida following spring training. Cashman said the reliever will only be permitted to pitch in extended spring training games.
“I think it’s going to be a mental challenge,” Chapman said. “I do feel fine. I feel physically strong, mentally strong. My job will be to work really hard and wait for May 9 so I can join my team.”
Miller is expected to be the closer in Chapman’s absence, and Girardi said the plan is for Chapman to take over after the suspension.