Atlanta Braves v Cincinnati Reds

Reds sending Aroldis Chapman to winter ball to work as a starter

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Aroldis Chapman has pitched exclusively out of the bullpen since debuting with Cincinnati in August of last season, but the Reds are now sending the flamethrowing left-hander to winter ball in order to build up arm strength to join the rotation next year.

John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports that Chapman will stretch out with some instructional league action before heading to Puerto Rico, with general manager Walt Jocketty explaining that “eventually we’ll get him up to five innings.”

Chapman initially started at Triple-A last season, but then shifted to the bullpen in preparation for a call-up to the majors. His upside as a starter is obviously huge, but given his problems consistently throwing strikes in short appearances there’s plenty of doubt about how his control will fare in a 200-inning role.

He’s logged 63 innings in 69 total appearances for the Reds, with a 3.27 ERA,  90/46 K/BB ratio, and .158 opponents’ batting average. Presumably the need to pace himself as a starter will mean many fewer triple-digit radar gun readings for Chapman, but if the Reds think he has a chance to be a top-of-the-rotation starter it certainly makes sense to give him a shot at age 24.

Braves ink Blaine Boyer to a minor league deal

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 2:  Relief pitcher Blaine Boyer #48 of the Milwaukee Brewers delivers to home plate during the seventh inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on October 2, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
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The Braves have signed reliever Blaine Boyer to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports. Bowman adds that the right-hander has a “good chance” to make the Braves’ bullpen out of spring training.

Boyer, 35, spent the past season with the Brewers, finishing with a 3.95 ERA and a 26/17 K/BB ratio in 66 innings.

Boyer, of course, started his professional baseball career with the Braves as they selected him in the third round of the 2000 draft. Since the Braves traded him in 2009, Boyer has pitched for the Cardinals, Diamondbacks, Mets, Padres, and Twins along with the Brewers.

Report: Rays nearing a deal with Shawn Tolleson

ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 18: Reliever Shawn Tolleson #37 of the Texas Rangers pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals in the eighth inning at Busch Stadium on June 18, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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Update (6:48 PM EST): Topkin reports the contract will be of the major league variety.

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Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that the Rays and free agent reliever Shawn Tolleson are close to finalizing a contract.

Tolleson, who turns 29 years old on Thursday, had an ugly 2016 season, finishing with a 7.68 ERA and a 29/10 K/BB ratio in 36 1/3 innings. He was one of the Rangers’ best relievers in the two seasons prior to that, however, which included saving 35 games in 2015.