Chapman’s arrest may keep him from closer role

Published 1:18 am Tuesday, May 22, 2012

CINCINNATI (AP) — Aroldis Chapman was arrested for speeding and driving with a suspended license early Monday, a few hours after it appeared he was in line to become the Cincinnati Reds’ next closer.

General manager Walt Jocketty and manager Dusty Baker met with Chapman following a 4-1 win over Atlanta on Monday night to get details of the pitcher’s arrest, which they didn’t know about before the game.

Police in the Columbus suburb of Grove City emailed The Associated Press a copy of an arrest report showing the 24-year-old reliever was stopped after radar clocked him going 93 mph on northbound Interstate 71 shortly before 1 a.m. on Monday.

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That was a few hours after Chapman moved to the front of the competition for the closer’s job by finishing a 5-2 win over the Yankees in New York on Sunday for his first save of the season and the second of his career.

“I don’t know what happened,” Baker said after the meeting with Chapman. “He got a speeding ticket. It can happen to anybody. His people are taking care of it, and we’re helping.”

The arrest report said Chapman was seen speeding at 12:40 a.m. When police stopped him, they found he had a suspended Kentucky driver’s license. He was arrested and photographed, then released on bond. He has a court appearance scheduled for June 6.

Chapman, who speaks to the media with a trainer serving as translator, wasn’t available for comment after the meeting.

His arrest is the latest twist in the Reds’ attempt to find someone to take the spot of closer Ryan Madson, out for the season with a torn elbow ligament. They gave left-hander Sean Marshall the first chance, but he struggled, prompting Baker to try the hard-throwing Cuban with a 0.00 ERA.

Marshall got the final out in the 4-1 win over the Braves on Monday. Baker wasn’t going to use Chapman because he had pitched four of the previous five days.

“It’s going to be a situation where we’re going to have to use who we think is best on that day, and hopefully he’s rested and the best guy for that day,” Baker said before the game. “It could be a number of guys.

“This is what happens when you lose your closer, you know what I mean?”

The Reds signed Chapman to a six-year, $30.25 million deal in 2010, expecting him to develop into a dominant starter. With the rotation set and the team on its way to the NL Central title that year, they moved him into the bullpen for the first time.

He did so well that they kept him there for 2011 in a setup role, but he struggled with his control and developed a sore pitching shoulder. He finished 4-1 with a 3.60 ERA in 54 appearances that season.

Cincinnati planned to move him back into a starting spot during spring training until injuries decimated the back end of the bullpen. Madson had reconstructive elbow surgery, and setup men Bill Bray and Nick Masset got hurt.

So Chapman went back into a setup role and has dazzled, giving up only seven hits and one unearned run in 22 1-3 innings while striking out 39. He has been so dominant that Baker decided he might be ready to try closing games.

“He graduated to the setup role,” Baker said. “Now, hopefully, he’s graduated — which we think he might have — to the closer’s role. It just depends on how often you can use him.”

Given Chapman’s shoulder problems last season, the Reds have been careful about pitching him too many days in a row. He pitched in four of five games in New York last week against the Mets and Yankees, but hasn’t gone three days in a row — typical for a closer.

“We didn’t want to go four out of five,” Baker said. “We hoped not to use him (that much). But we’re on an honor basis — he said he felt fine. I just tell him to make sure you’re telling the truth. Right now it’s not hero time. It’s May, not September.”