The Reds headed into spring training this year with very few questions. The lineup of position players was basically air-tight and the starting rotation was all but set. One of the few questions this club was facing was whether or not to make a starting pitcher out of last season’s closer, Aroldis Chapman. With Jonathan Broxton and Sean Marshall available for closing duties, the Reds have decided to gamble on sticking Chapman into the rotation. Chapman was, after all, the Reds most impressive starter last season in Goodyear, AZ.
Along with two legitimate staff aces in Johnny Cueto and Mat Latos, Chapman joins the rotation along with the wily veteran Bronson Arroyo and mister no-hitter Homer Bailey. That has the makings of the best rotation in the NL, if only on paper.
Chapman was sharp today as he tossed two perfect innings against the Rockies. Aroldis topped out at 94 MPH as he weaved in his off-speed pitches with fantastic control. He is virtually unhittable when he is locating like he did today. Chapman hurled 23 pitches this afternoon and 19 were strikes. He got four groundouts, a strikeout and a popup.
Fans have been debating Chapman’s move to starter for months now and the importance of a dominant closer vs. quality starting pitching every fifth day. Both sides make good arguments but I’ve cast my lot with the starting pitcher camp. There are a lot of smart dudes getting paid a shit ton a cash to decide these things. The one I would listen to most is the Reds pitching coach Bryan Price. He has worked with Chapman for three years now.
Reds beat writer John Fay reported this today from Goodyear, Arizona: “That was nice,” Price said. “He was able to repeat pitches. He threw three different pitches for strikes — the fastball, slider and split. He was pretty sharp for this early in camp.”
Chapman only threw one change-up.
“With these guys going out for two innings at a time, it’s hard to establish four pitches,” Price said. “We really wanted to focus on fastball, slider. He did throw a couple of splits. We’re still trying to define that third pitch. With his arsenal, I don’t think he needs more than three pitches.”
It’s taken four years but Chapman, the starter, is happening. Opposing hitters, be afraid.