Dusty Baker on Aroldis Chapman: “We’re going to stretch him out” as a starter

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Initially the Reds planned to have Aroldis Chapman build up his arm strength as a starter in the Arizona Fall League and winter ball, but shoulder problems put that on hold and now the left-hander’s role for 2012 is somewhat unclear.

Dusty Baker said today that they’ll give Chapman an opportunity to start this spring and “if there’s not time and there’s not quality, you can always back off a guy.”

In other words, if he’s struggling to pitch multiple innings at a time–or if his shoulder starts barking again–the Reds can always shift him back to the bullpen. Baker also hinted that sending Chapman to the minors to continue working as a starter is a possibility that “depends on our needs.”

Chapman shifted to the bullpen full time in mid-2010 and has thrown 63 innings for the Reds with a 3.27 ERA and 90/46 K/BB ratio. His overpowering fastball velocity would be very intriguing if he can maintain it multiple times through the lineup, but Chapman’s shaky control would seemingly be an even bigger obstacle as a starter and the Reds already have a full rotation with Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Bronson Arroyo, Mike Leake, and Homer Bailey.

Ronald Acuña batting sixth, playing left field in his Braves debut

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The Braves have made it official, announcing that they have called up top prospect Ronald Acuña. He’ll bat sixth in tonight’s game against the Reds and will start in left field.

Acuña will be wearing number 13, no doubt to honor past Braves luminaries like Adonis Garcia, Nate McLouth, Ozzie Guillen, Juan Eichelberger and Jerry Royster, all of whom have worn the fabled 1 and 3. Feel like he stands a pretty good chance of besting their exploits.

The 20-year-old Acuña was 11-for-his-last-33 with a homer, a double, four walks, and three stolen bases at Triple-A Gwinnett following a slow start. He tore it up in spring training, however, and hit .325/.374/.522 with 21 home runs, 82 RBI, 44 stolen bases, and 88 runs scored in 139 games last season across three levels of the Braves’ minor league system.

The future was delayed a bit, but it’s here now for the Atlanta Braves’ phenom.