Aroldis Chapman spent all offseason and the first month of spring training preparing for a potential move to the rotation, but with Opening Day right around the corner the Reds have decided to keep the flame-throwing left-hander in the bullpen.
Ryan Madson undergoing season-ending Tommy John elbow surgery likely played a part in the decision, as did the Reds having plenty of rotation depth beyond Chapman, but manager Dusty Baker also told John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer that “Bill Bray isn’t ready to be late-inning lefty right now.”
That seems debatable at best considering Bray has a 3.40 ERA and 74/27 K/BB ratio in 77 innings during the past two seasons, with the raw stuff to match, and has held opponents to a .201 batting average during that time. If healthy Bray could certainly serve as the primary lefty setup man in front of lefty closer Sean Marshall.
Of course, that doesn’t mean keeping Chapman in the bullpen is the wrong move. In theory giving a young pitcher every opportunity to show that he can handle a 200-inning starting role before relegating him to a 65-inning bullpen role makes all kinds of sense, but Chapman’s control problems provide plenty of reason to be skeptical that he could thrive as a starter. Still, the waffling on his role after rushing him to the majors isn’t helping Chapman’s development any.
As per tradition, towards the end of the regular season, veterans on baseball’s various clubs haze the rookies by making them dress up and do something a bit embarrassing. That used to include things like making rookies dress up like women and carry pink backpacks, but Major League Baseball banned that practice, so veterans had to get marginally more creative.
The Phillies had their rookies — including Rhys Hoskins, J.P. Crawford, and Nick Williams — dress up like characters in Grease and perform “Greased Lightning” at their hotel in Atlanta on Friday night. Not only did the Phils’ vets and other members of the crew get a free show, but so did employees of the hotel and nearby hotel patrons.
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As MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki explains, Hoskins was the inspiration for the gag as he has earned the nickname “Rhys Lightning.” (Rhys, for the uninitiated, rhymes with “Grease.”) Hoskins said, “You always hear about team chemistry. I think stuff like that let’s you get to know guys on a different level, when you’re not at the field. You just become more personable with people. The better relationships you have, there’s a different level of playing for each other. And I think that’s usually a sign of a good team.”
The Twins also had some fun at the rookies’ expense:
Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge went yard twice in Sunday afternoon’s 9-5 loss to the Blue Jays, bringing his season total up to 48. That leaves him just one home run shy of tying the single-season rookie record set by Mark McGwire with the Athletics in 1987.
After Sunday’s performance, Judge is hitting .281/.416/.610 with 48 home runs, 105 RBI, and 122 runs scored in 651 plate appearances. He has the AL Rookie of the Year Award on lock and is neck-and-neck with the Astros’ Jose Altuve, Chris Sale of the Red Sox, and the Indians’ Corey Kluber in the AL MVP Award race.