Chapman asks to close again
The experiment may be ending earlier than expected, and not by the coaches or management.
The Cincinnati Reds were working this spring with the idea of making flame-throwing left-handed pitcher Aroldis Chapman a starter despite a remarkable closer role last season.
But after requesting a move back to a starting role, Chapman has shifted gears and is now lobbying for a return to the bullpen.
“I would like to be a closer, but that’s not in my hands,” said Chapman.
With less than three weeks remaining in spring training, the team has yet to make a final decision. Chapman’s numbers from last season are hard to argue against toward leaving him in the closer role.
Chapman, 25, throws consistently in the 100-mile and hour range. In 68 games last season, the Cuban missile was 5-5 with a 1.51 earned run average and 38 saves.
Even more impressive were his 122 strikeouts in just 71.2 innings.
His outstanding season earned him a spot on the National League All-Star team and — even more importantly — helped the Reds win the Central Division title.
In his brief major league career, Chapman has worked in 137 games — all in relief — with a combined 11-8 record, 2.33 ERA and 212 strikeouts in 135 innings.
Cincinnati was hoping Chapman would add to an already formidable starting rotation that includes Johnny Cueto, Matt Latos, Homer Bailey, Bronson Arroyo and Mike Leake.
However, Leake could be the odd man out if the Reds keep Chapman in the rotation.
Chapman has pitched in three games this spring, two as a starter. He has allowed only two runs in eight innings but his fastballs has been consistently in the low 90s, well below his average of 98 miles an hour he registered last season.
Before the season, Chapman expressed a desire to be a starting pitcher.
“I would like to start a season and throw as many innings as I can, but that’s up to the team,” said Chapman through an interpreter. “When I was in Cuba, I threw 150 innings. I will prepare myself to throw as many innings as they want me to throw.”
The Reds re-signed reliever Jonathan Broxton to a three-year contract with the idea of him taking over the closer role.
Chapman’s comments that he is willing to remain as the closer seemed to please manager Dusty Baker.
“We’re going to do what’s best for the organization, for the team and for him,” said Baker. “But it makes it a lot easier if you get the person’s blessing. I’m happy he finally expressed something.”
Baker wants to make a decision within the next week.
“I’d like to decide soon and get my team together. I don’t like having guys in the middle.”
That’s a bad situation when you’re in the middle of anything. An unknown. Then everybody else is in an unknown situation. That’s unfair to him or us, the situation he’s been put in. He was in the same situation last year.”