Baker urges caution with 'Chapman Mania'
Reds skipper pacing young lefty through impressive spring
PHOENIX -- When the Reds signed Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman to a six-year, $30.25 million contract in January, the club declared he wouldn't start in the Majors unless he was ready.However, the question that no one can answer yet is what if he's not ready but still has the best spring among the fifth-starter contenders and belongs on the 25-man roster? "It's hard to plan an unknown entity," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "You don't know what things may arise. He still has to get a driver's license and a Social Security card. There are a lot of things he has to get. I think baseball and pitching are probably a sanctuary from all of the other stuff." At least the 22-year-old Chapman satisfied one curiosity during his second outing of spring on Friday. He could still get by without having his best stuff, and even while bothered by a cold. During a 3-2 Reds win over the Dodgers, Chapman allowed two infield hits over two innings and struck out two. He threw 35 pitches, 20 for strikes, and demonstrated less command than he showed in Monday's first outing against the Royals. "Personally, I felt good," Chapman said with Class A Dayton pitching coach Tony Fossas interpreting. "I just missed a couple of pitches out of the zone. I was trying to put them in a place, but they went the other way." Chapman, who entered out of the bullpen in the bottom of the fifth inning, reached three-ball counts four times and was missing often with both his fastball and slider. He showed mild frustration when his pitches weren't locating. "I was not finishing up my pitches very well with the slider," Chapman said. "That's why I was not happy with it."
2010 Spring Training - Major League Baseball
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"Imagine how hard it was on [first Japanese Major League player] Masinori Murakami. He had nobody. I think it's a lot easier on [Chapman] now than it was for guys before him."One thing that appears certain is that Chapman won't be taking Fossas with him to his next step. The coach, who also serves as the pitcher's so-called guardian, will return to his regular duties when the season starts. "Sooner or later, we're going to have to wean him off of Fossas," Baker said. "We have a lot of Latin guys here to help, big time, to keep things in perspective and help him through it." Reminiscent of former Dodgers teammate and young lefty Fernando Valenzuela in 1981, Baker realizes that "Chapman Mania" is brewing as the season gets closer and that everyone wants to see the hard-throwing young lefty. That, too, doesn't appear to play a part in this situation. "I understand it, but I don't have to adhere to it," Baker said.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.