Chapman to make Reds’ exhibition debut
GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Cuban left-hander Aroldis Chapman will make his exhibition debut for the Cincinnati Reds on Monday when he pitches in relief against the Kansas City Royals.
The Reds landed the hard thrower with a six-year, $30.25 million deal in January. Manager Dusty Baker said he wants the 22-year-old Cuban defector to concentrate on getting hitters out.
“I don’t care who you are, you’re going to be nervous. If you’re not nervous, you’re either lying or something’s wrong with you,” Baker said Thursday. “Hank Aaron used to say nerves are good. Just be nervous, but don’t be scared.”
Chapman pitched one inning in an intrasquad game Thursday, and hit infielder Todd Frazier in the right thigh with a 95 mph fastball. He also gave up a double by Yonder Alonso, induced a groundout and struck out two batters. His fastball was clocked as high as 97 mph.
“He threw me a changeup,” said infielder Wilkin Castillo, who fanned on the pitch. “I had no chance.”
Pitching coach Bryan Price was impressed with Chapman’s first appearance in a game setting.
“He kept the ball down,” Price said. “He was around the plate with three pitches. His slider is progressing. He’s a good athlete around the mound. What’s impressive is for a young kid that throws so hard, he was able to keep the ball in his location fairly well.”
Except for the pitch to Frazier, who came away with a bruise.
“If he gets the ball over, he’ll be hard to hit,” Baker said.
Baker plans to use him again in relief of Homer Bailey next Monday afternoon against the Royals at Goodyear Ballpark. Chapman is competing to make a Reds’ starting rotation that appears to have four spots set with Aaron Harang, Bronson Arroyo, Johnny Cueto and Bailey, all right-handers.
Chapman has been clocked at 100 mph, but also has control issues. Baker says that’s to be expected for such a young, powerful arm.
“Not to put him in this class or anything, but how much control did Randy Johnson have at that age, or Sandy Koufax, or Nolan Ryan?” Baker said. “Very few guys have had the kind of control that they had at a later age.”
Baker also said Chapman’s breaking ball is better than many believed.
Baker is already anticipating that Chapman will be a drawing card this spring. He joked that is a reason to bring him in later in the game.
“He’ll be in the bullpen. Down here, it doesn’t matter,” Baker said. “Plus if we pitch him later, the fans stick around and drink more beer.”