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
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.)