Oct 052010
Reds phenom Aroldis Chapman

Reds phenom Aroldis Chapman

October 5 Philadelphia Inquirer:

“Dusty Baker was playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers when an unknown lefthander came on the scene at Chavez Ravine in 1981. Fernando Valenzuela quickly turned Southern California into the home of Fernandomania.

Aroldis Chapman has not done that to southern Ohio.

“Not yet,” said Baker, now Chapman’s manager with the Cincinnati Reds.

When the Phillies face the Reds in a best-of-five National League division series beginning Wednesday at Citizens Bank Park, they will be getting their first batter’s-box view of Cincinnati’s Chapman, a 22-year-old rookie reliever whose left arm has produced fastballs clocked at 105 m.p.h.

Since Jan. 11, the day the Reds signed Chapman to a six-year, $30-million contract six months after he defected from the Cuban national team before the start of a tournament in the Netherlands, there has been nothing but the highest of expectations on the lefthander.

He has lived up to those expectations since being called up to the major leagues from triple-A Louisville.

Chapman joined the Reds on Aug. 31 and has acclimated comfortably into the role of a setup man for closer Francisco Cordero. He has gone 2-2 with a 2.03 ERA in 15 appearances covering 131/3 innings. He has struck out 19, walked five, and allowed three earned runs on nine hits.

In spring training, Chapman was a curiosity and an outside candidate to win a spot in the starting rotation. He had been a starter for Cuba, including starting against Japan in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. That’s how he began the season with Louisville, but by the end of June, the Reds had moved him to the bullpen.

“Expectations are hard to put on anybody, because there was some development that needed to take place,” said Reds pitching coach Bryan Price. “I didn’t know if he’d be able to help us this year, if he was a season away, or if he was a couple of seasons away.

“From my perspective, he’s handled it very well, because we haven’t been spoon-feeding him. Typically, that’s what you do with your young guys. You bring them up and you try to give them a soft landing. With the way he goes about his business, with his intensity and focus, we didn’t feel he would be overmatched by the environment.”

When he enters a game, the flash bulbs go off. But Chapman is used to pitching under pressure.

“He’s coming from Cuba, so he’s played in international competition. This, for him, is nothing,” said catcher Ramon Hernandez. “In Cuba, you’ve got to win. You don’t win, you don’t get nothing. It don’t matter if you get second place. . . . Here, he’s a millionaire – and if he wins or loses, nobody is going to tell him ‘You’re not going to get paid if you lose.’ “”

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