Aroldis Chapman Making Big Strides - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Aroldis Chapman Making Big Strides

CINCINNATI (AP) - Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman is learning the

important things in the minor leagues - how to control his pitches

and how to order a meal in English.

The better he gets, the closer he gets to the big leagues.

The left-hander has reached 103 mph with his fastball while

pitching for Triple-A Louisville, the place that the Reds felt was

the most suitable to begin his season of adjustments. The

22-year-old had a lot to learn when he signed a six-year, $30.25

million deal in January.

He gave his best performance yet on Thursday night in

Louisville, allowing only three hits in five innings and striking

out seven in a 6-0 win over Gwinnett.

"He's maturing and developing with his command (of pitches) and

learning the intricacies of the game that he needed to learn,"

general manager Walt Jocketty said. "He's also getting more

accustomed to living here in the United States. That was a big part

of it."

The Reds weren't sure where Chapman fit when they signed him.

They left open the possibility that he could make the rotation out

of spring training, knowing it was a long shot. Back spasms in

March sidelined him for a few days and ended his chances of heading

to Cincinnati.

Instead, he's been learning a new country, a new language and,

in many ways, a new game with the Reds' top farm club, less than a

two-hour drive away. He's been overpowering at times. Other times,

he shows that he needs a lot of work before he's ready for the

majors.

So far, he's making progress.

"I think everything has been excellent," Chapman said, with

trainer Tomas Vera translating. "The adjustment has been easy.

I've got a good relationship with my teammates. I have a good

relationship with the organization, with the people that surround

me. Everything has been excellent. Everything has been good for

me."

He has to work on is getting deeper into games.

The fastball is never a problem, hitting 100 mph from time to

time on the radar gun at Louisville Slugger Field. He's trying to

get his slider and changeup sharpened. He also needs to put batters

away more quickly. High pitch counts have limited his starts to an

average of five innings. In nine games, he has lasted six innings

only one time.

Chapman is 5-2 with a 3.55 earned run average. He has pitched 45

2-3 innings, struck out 55 and walked 25. He tends to go deep in

counts to batters - he needed 90 pitches to get through five

innings on Thursday.

"He only walked one, but he had a lot of three-ball counts,"

Louisville manager Rick Sweet said. "He had better command,

probably, than in most of the games he's had. He pitched well,

mixed his pitches well. I was very pleased with the use of his

changeup and breaking ball."

His worst start was May 14 at Rochester, where he gave up nine

hits and six runs in five innings. In his two starts since, Chapman

has gone 10 2-3 innings without allowing a run, giving up only six

hits while fanning 14. His last start was pushed back three days

after he developed a blister, which turned out to be no big

problem.

He hit top speed right away, a difference from his other starts.

"At the beginning of the game, I wanted to be at the top of my

speed," Chapman said. "I want to use my speed at the beginning of

the game and after that, I did what I was told to do. So I started

mixing up my pitches and I started using more breaking pitches."

The Reds view Chapman as a long-term investment, so they're

willing to be patient with him this season and let him develop at

his pace. He wasn't considered when the Reds needed a pitcher to

replace the injured Homer Bailey - Sam LeCure was promoted instead

and won his debut on Saturday night.

How close is Chapman to consideration for a promotion if another

pitcher is needed?

"I think he's pretty close," Jocketty said.

---

Powered by Frankly