Reds make key additions, changes for 2013 seasonPublished 1:30am Monday, February 4, 2013
ASHLAND, Ky. — The Cincinnati Reds have made a few changes in their roster and in their strategy.
The Reds acquired or re-signed several players during the off-season. But the biggest change in their team has to do with moving All-Star reliever Aroldis Chapman into the starting rotation.
Making the flame-throwing left-hander a starter would give the Reds an imposing starting rotation that includes Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Homer Bailey and Bronson Arroyo.
When projected closer Ryan Madson suffered a season-ending arm injury in spring training, Chapman moved into the role and was nothing less than spectacular.
In 68 games, Chapman pitched 71.2 innings and racked up 122 strikeouts with his 100-mile-an-hour fastball. He had a 1.51 earned run average and a microscopic 0.81 ERA with runners in scoring position.
Despite Chapman’s dominance in the bullpen, the Reds plan to put him in the starting rotation. The acquisition of Jonathan Broxton last season — the Reds signed the free agent to a three-year, $21 million deal recently — gives Cincinnati a closer to replace Chapman.
“He’s always been a starter, even when he played in Cuba,” said Reds’ color analyst and former relief ace Jeff Brantley said of Chapman.
“He’s made it known to the front office he wants to start. If it doesn’t work out he can always go back to the bullpen.”
Dick Williams — vice president of baseball operations — said the Reds were a little short on left-handed relievers, but he was more focused on pitchers just getting batters out.
“Our right-handed pitchers had a lot of success against left-handed batters. We’re 100 percent ready to go,” said Williams.
The Reds traded centerfielder Drew Stubbs to the Cleveland Indians for outfielder Shin-Soo Choo. Stubbs — one of the fastest players in baseball — never materialized as a leadoff hitter and base stealer due in part to the large number of strikeouts he amassed.
So the Reds opted for Choo who hit .283 with 16 home runs and 67 runs batted in last season. He also stole 21 bases in 28 attempts. Stubbs stole 30 bases in 37 tries.
But Choo may be only a temporary fix. Waiting in the wings is the speedy Billy Hamilton who set the minor league record last season with 155 stolen bases.
Hamilton went from Class A to AA ball during the season and isn’t expected to be on the opening day roster. However, Williams won’t say Hamilton’s return to the minors is etched in stone.
Hamilton has been a shortstop but he has struggled defensively. The Reds moved him to the outfield last season in hopes of grooming him for the major league roster.
“Billy will be up real soon, we hope,” said Williams. “He’s making it difficult to keep him down (in the minors) with the numbers he keeps putting up.
“When a player is called up depends on their personal development and the team’s needs. I wouldn’t put anything past him.”
The Reds still have Jay Bruce in right field and re-signed Chris Heisey who can play all three outfield spots including the vacated centerfield job.
Todd Frazier will be given the third base job after he hit .273 with 19 home runs and 67 RBIs last year as he finished third in the Rookie of the Year voting.
He supplants the oft-injured Scott Rolen, but the Reds are still attempting to sign the 37-year-old veteran infielder.
Rolen is also being courted by the Los Angeles Dodgers, but Rolen would prefer to stay in Cincinnati if the money is close. Reds’ general manager Walt Jocketty has been working on a deal with Rolen since the end of last season.
“Walt and Scott have some history together. We’re getting close to an answer. Any team would be fortunate to have Scott fill a role,” said Williams.
The Reds have left the door open for a possible signing of former Cy Young winner Brandon Webb who pitched in high school at Ashland, Ky. Webb has missed the past three-plus seasons with a series of shoulder injuries.
“We’ve been monitoring Brandon for the last couple of years. We’d love to see him pitch again,” said Williams.