Reds plan to keep Aroldis Chapman in the bullpen

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Now that veteran left-hander Arthur Rhodes has officially signed with the Rangers, Reds general manager Walt Jocketty told Mark Sheldon of MLB.com that Aroldis Chapman will likely remain in the bullpen for 2011.

“I would think so, yeah,” Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said. “The plans are to keep Chapman in the bullpen right now. We’ll take a long look at Dontrelle Willis also.”

Jocketty said that he doesn’t plan to look outside the organization in order to fill the top left-handed reliever role, so while Willis, Bill Bray, Matt Maloney and Daniel Ray Herrera may also get auditions, Chapman should be considered the favorite.

Of course, the fireballing southpaw could provide much more value to the Reds as a starting pitcher, but he’s unlikely to get that chance, at least in the short-term, especially after he posted a 4.11 ERA and 76/40 K/BB ratio in 13 starts with Triple-A Louisville last season. He found his comfort zone after converting to a reliever down the stretch, first putting up a 2.40 ERA and a ridiculous 49/12 K/BB ratio over 30 innings with Louisville and then a 2.03 ERA and 19/5 K/BB ratio over 13 1/3 innings in his first taste of the big leagues.

I know what you’re thinking. Why are the Reds paying all this money for a left-handed specialist? They could have traded for Oliver Perez, for goodness sakes. Well, in case you didn’t notice, Francisco Cordero hasn’t looked like an elite closer lately, seeing his strikeout rate decline and his walk rate go up over each of the last three seasons. I wouldn’t be shocked in the least if Chapman (or Nick Masset) begins to close games if Cordero shows more signs of decline early on in the year. Just something to keep an eye on.

Dodgers top Giants, clinch fifth straight NL West title

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The Dodgers are NL West champions for the fifth time in a row. They clinched with a 4-2 win over the Giants on Friday night, taking their first and only lead on a mammoth record-breaking home run from Cody Bellinger in the third inning.

Rich Hill turned in another quality start, going six innings with five hits, a run and nine strikeouts to keep the Giants at bay. He tacked on an RBI hit of his own, too, lashing a double to left field for his first extra-base hit since 2007.

The Giants, meanwhile, deployed Jeff Samardzija and his 4.42 ERA for 4 1/3 innings. Samardzija was on the hook for the Dodgers’ four-run spread in the third and took his 15th loss of the season. Pablo Sandoval came through with a solo home run in the ninth, but the rest of San Francisco’s offense wasn’t so lucky against Kenley Jansen, who struck out the side to clinch the game — and the division.

After Friday’s showstopper, the Dodgers are just two wins away from their first 100-win season since 1974. If they win the remaining eight games of the season, they’ll beat out the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers for the most wins in franchise history.

Watch: Cody Bellinger breaks NL rookie home run record

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Cody Bellinger helped the Dodgers to their first lead on Friday night, going deep for his 39th home run of the season and setting a new National League rookie home run record in the process. With two on and two out in the third inning, the Dodgers’ slugger launched a 2-1 pitch from the Giants’ Jeff Samardzija, skimming the right field fence to give the team a three-run cushion:

The three-run bomb was Bellinger’s sixth of the season. In what is undoubtedly a Rookie of the Year award-worthy campaign, he’s logged 21 solo shots, 11 two-run blasts and a single grand slam. His historic home run topped former NL rookie leaders Frank Robinson and Wally Berger, at 38 homers apiece.

The Dodgers need to stay on top of the Giants to clinch the NL West or, barring that, have the Marlins pull off a win over the Diamondbacks. They currently lead the Giants 4-1 in the bottom of the fifth inning. The Marlins, meanwhile, are staying just ahead of the D-backs with a 9-7 lead in the top of the sixth.