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.

Alex Dickerson to miss 2017 season after undergoing back surgery

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Padres’ outfielder Alex Dickerson won’t see PETCO Park anytime soon — at least, not as its starting left fielder. The 27-year-old was diagnosed with a bulging disc in his lower back prior to the start of the 2017 season, and hasn’t made any kind of substantial progress in the months since. According to Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune, he suffered a setback in his recovery process last week and is set to undergo a season-ending discectomy next Wednesday.

Over 285 plate appearances, Dickerson batted .257/.333/.455 with 10 home runs and a .788 OPS for the Padres in 2016. He missed several days with a right hip contusion last July, but hasn’t experienced any substantial health problems since undergoing surgery in 2014 to repair a torn ligament in his left ankle.

The expected recovery period for lower back surgery is 3-4 months, according to Lin, which puts Dickerson’s estimated return just a few days before the end of the regular season. The Padres aren’t scraping the bottom of the NL West, but their 29-44 record doesn’t bode well for a postseason run this year. Assuming Dickerson rehabs his back in a timely manner, he should be in fine form to enter the competition for left field next spring.

Video: Hanley Ramirez’s No. 250 career home run barely left the field

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Hanley Ramirez played a pivotal role during the Red Sox’ 9-4 win over the Angels on Friday night, crushing a two-run homer off of Alex Meyer to bring the Sox up to a four-run lead in the fourth inning.

Well, crushed might be the wrong word. The ball cleared the right field fence with a mere 350 feet, landing just beyond Pesky’s Pole to bring Ramirez’s career home run total to an even 250.

According to the ESPN Home Run Tracker, Ramirez’s milestone blast wasn’t the shortest home run of the year — not by a long shot. That distinction currently belongs to Rays’ outfielder Corey Dickerson, who skimmed the left field fence at Rogers Centre with a 326-foot homer back in April.