Aroldis Chapman a mystery everywhere but on the mound

TAMPA, Fla. -- Aroldis Chapman has been in Yankees camp for nearly two weeks now, and one thing we can report unequivocally is something you probably already know: He is forbidding.

And that's just in the clubhouse.

On Monday the Yankees got a chance to see just how forbidding he can be on the mound, too, at least a "fortunate" foursome of rookies chosen to face him in his first live batting practice session. Tyler Wade, Jorge Mateo, Ben Gamel and Cesar Puello each got their turn in the cage, but only one got even a decent swing. That was Gamel, who lined a Chapman slider into short right field. The others either kept the bats safely on their shoulders, corkscrewed themselves into the ground trying to hit the ball or walked away holding a bat fragment while shaking out a vibrating hand, as Mateo did after one of his turns.

"They were trying, but they were just laughing and saying, 'This is unhittable,'" said Carlos Corporan, who caught for Chapman. "They knew they had no chance. And he wasn't even throwing hard. Can you imagine 104 with that kind of changeup he has? You've got to go home, bro. Game over."

Corporan, who is trying to make the team as the backup catcher, was one of the few Yankees in that cage happy to see Chapman because, of course, he didn't have to attempt to hit off him. At the end of Sunday's workout, coach Tony Pena asked Corporan if he had ever caught Chapman.

"Nope," Corporan said.

"Well, you're catching him tomorrow," he was told.

"I went home all excited and I woke up like a little kid," said Corporan, 32, a veteran of six big league seasons who is here as a nonroster invitee. "I was looking to do that. I was like, 'I can die now and I'll be happy. Now I can go to heaven.'"

Corporan now knows Chapman about as well as any of his teammates and certainly better than his manager, because the closer seems to communicate best when he is on the mound. There is no mistaking his message when he has a baseball in his hand; it is basically, "I'm going to throw this and you can't hit it."

"He wasn't even trying today, and he was throwing 98," Corporan said. "That's God-given. It's a real talent."

Off the field, it appears to be a different story. Chapman spends much of his time in the clubhouse facing into his locker, often while staring into a smartphone. His interview sessions with the beat writers, hampered somewhat by a language barrier, often yield one- and two-word answers and rarely exceed a couple of minutes. (His post-workout "session" on Tuesday lasted precisely 59 seconds before he was hustled away by a member of the Yankees PR staff.)

Even manager Joe Girardi, who said last week he would strive to "get to know" Chapman before forming an opinion on the domestic violence suspension hanging over the pitcher's head, basically admitted he had yet to accomplish that mission.

"I’ve had some conversations, but I mean, they’re short," Girardi said. "He seems to fit in very well into our clubhouse. I think our guys accept him, want to be there for him, just like they would anyone else, but everything I’ve seen is he’s been good in the clubhouse."

Asked why his interactions with his new closer have been short, Girardi cited the language barrier, a lack of time and a responsibility to get to know the other 65 players in camp too.

There is also, of course, the looming prospect of an MLB suspension, which always seems to come up in the conversation and understandably makes both Chapman and his questioners uncomfortable.

"It’s a sensitive issue, and it should be a sensitive issue," Girardi said.

It doesn't help that there is almost always a daily "tip" to either a media member or a member of the Yankees hierarchy that this will be the day commissioner Rob Manfred comes down with his ruling. Nearly two weeks have come and gone since Manfred said he was getting close to making a decision on two of the three domestic violence issues involving ballplayers -- Jose Reyes and Yasiel Puig are the others -- and while he has placed Reyes on paid leave, he has yet to rule on either of the other two.

"I know that at some point, we're going to hear something," Yankees GM Brian Cashman said. "Now, it's not out of my mind. But it's not in our control. We just knew when we acquired him that there would be something that we're dealing with. Whatever it's going to be, it's going to be."

It lends an air of awkwardness to all transactions with Chapman. Except, of course, when he is on the mound.

"I just wanted to see what it was like," said Wade, a 21-year-old infielder. "Obviously I’ve seen him on TV a lot, and it was a good experience. It was everything I’d heard of and more. It was definitely difficult, that's for sure. I mean, it’s tough to see the ball coming out of his hand, especially being a left-handed hitter. It was really fun."

Fun? "Well, I had one decent swing off him, so I consider that a victory," he said.

Corporan, who has an opt-out at the end of March, said he would be happy to catch Chapman again. Just so long as he doesn't have to step in against him.

"No, I don’t want to hit against him," he said. "In fact, I'm probably going to become his best friend so if I ever face him, I’ll have half a chance."

With the enigma that is Aroldis Chapman, that might be the loftiest goal of all.