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Chapman Throws Pain-Free

GOODYEAR, Ariz. (AP) - The fastball topped out at 97 mph. The

hitters couldn't catch up with it. By all appearances, left-hander

Aroldis Chapman was back in form after a one-week layoff because of

back spasms.

The Cuban defector pitched one inning of a minor league game for

the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday, having little trouble with

up-and-coming Milwaukee Brewers. He struck out the first two

batters he faced - one of them on a nasty slider - and gave up a

single up the middle before getting the final out on a routine


"I felt like before," Chapman said, with a trainer acting as

translator. "I feel really good."

The 22-year-old pitcher was in the running for the fifth

starter's spot before spasms in his lower back forced him to leave

a game last Monday. He didn't throw for two days, giving the back

time to recuperate.

While the rest of the team played the Dodgers at a stadium down

the road on Sunday, Chapman went to one of the back practice fields

behind the Reds' complex, testing his back in a very low-key

setting against minor league hitters.

Chapman's fastball hit 100 mph on radar guns during earlier

appearances this spring, when he threw a little harder each inning

he stayed on the mound. He threw 19 pitches on Sunday, 12 of them

strikes. A couple of them hit 97 mph on a radar gun set up on a

white table behind the backstop.

"I could have thrown more than one inning," Chapman said.

"There were only two days I stopped throwing."

What happens next is unclear.

The Reds signed Chapman to a six-year, $30.25 million deal in

January, planning to go slow with a player who was going through

culture shock after defecting. They held open the possibility that

he could win the final spot in the rotation, but there was a

crowded field of youngsters and veterans competing for the job.

With a week left before Opening Day, the competition is down to

three: left-hander Travis Wood, right-hander Mike Leake and

. None of them has pitched in the majors.



The Reds have three days off in April, so the fifth starter

won't necessarily get much of a chance to pitch. The Reds will have

to weigh whether it's best for Chapman to pitch regularly in the

minors, giving him a chance to refine his delivery before bringing

him to the majors for the first time.


(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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