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.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.
Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.
Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.
The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.
ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.
Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.
Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.
EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.