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
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
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
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
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
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.