Aroldis Chapman

Aroldis Chapman blows away the Cardinals

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One would never know Aroldis Chapman was pitching for the third straight day for the first time in two years Sunday.

The Cuban left-hander fanned all three Cardinals he faced to protect a 4-2 lead in the ninth as the Reds completed their sweep tonight. Chapman pitched in all three games, striking out eight and allowing just one hit in three scoreless innings.

Chapman now has 79 strikeouts in 42 1/3 innings for the year. It would be the highest strikeout rate ever for a season of at least 40 innings. Here’s the top 10 in K/9 IP:

16.80 – Chapman (2012 Reds) – 79 K in 42.1 IP
16.10 – Kenley Jansen (2011 Dodgers) – 96 K in 53.2 IP
15.99 – Carlos Marmol (2010 Cubs): – 138 K in 77.2 IP
14.98 – Eric Gagne (2003 Dodgers): – 137 K in 82.1 IP
14.95 – Billy Wagner (1999 Astros): 124 K in 74.2 IP
14.93 – Brad Lidge (2004 Astros): 157 K in 94.2 IP
14.84 – Craig Kimbrel (2011 Braves): 127 K in 77 IP
14.77 – Armando Benitez (1999 Mets): 128 K in 78 IP
14.55 – Billy Wagner (1998 Astros): 97 K in 60 IP
14.38 – Billy Wagner (1997 Astros): 106 K in 66.1 IP

No starters on that list, obviously. The top K rate ever for a starting pitcher was Randy Johnson at 13.41 with the Diamondbacks in 2001 (372 K in 249.2 IP).

Chapman blew back-to-back save opportunities for the Reds on June 19 & 24, but he’s been on an incredible tear since, allowing just two hits in seven scoreless innings. 19 of his 21 outs during the span have come on strikeouts.

Shapiro, Murray defend Dellin Betances after arbitration feud

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 12:  Dellin Betances #68 of the New York Yankees and the American League pitches against the National League during the 87th Annual MLB All-Star Game at PETCO Park on July 12, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The dust hasn’t quite settled after right-hander Dellin Betances‘ arbitration hearing with the Yankees on Saturday. The case was decided in the team’s favor, awarding Betances with a $3 million salary for the 2017 season instead of the $5 million he initially requested. Yankees’ president Randy Levine held a press conference to voice his outrage over the figure presented by Betances and his agency, saying it had “no bearings in reality” since Betances does not have the elite closer status required for a salary bump of that magnitude.

Needless to say, the comments caused some consternation within Betances’ camp. The reliever publicly addressed the outburst, telling the press that he was prepared to put his differences with the team aside until he heard what Levine had to say. Via MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch:

Players union executive Rick Shapiro and Betances’ agent, Jim Murray, also spoke out in the right-hander’s favor. Shapiro presented Betances’ case during the hearing on Saturday and called Levine’s comments “an absolute disgrace to the arbitration process and to all of Major League Baseball.” In a report from FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, Shapiro added: “The only thing that has been unprecedented in the last 36 hours is that a club official, after winning a case, called a news conference to effectively gloat about his victory – that’s unprecedented.”

Murray spoke exclusively to Rosenthal, accusing the president of effectively bullying the 28-year-old during the arbitration process and claiming that Levine had both mispronounced Betances’ name throughout the hearing and blamed the reliever for “declining ticket sales and their lack of playoff history.” Like Betances, Murray said that the agency was ready to accept the arbiter’s decision and move on before Levine’s decision to air his grievances to the media. “The only person overreaching in this entire situation is Randy,” Murray told Rosenthal. “He might as well be an astronaut because nobody on earth would agree with what he is saying. Even the others in the room would disagree with him.”

Royals will experiment with Alex Gordon in all three outfield spots this year

CLEVELAND, OH -  MAY 7: Alex Gordon #4 of the Kansas City Royals reacts to a fan while on first base during the sixth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on May 7, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Royals’ manager Ned Yost is shaking things up in 2017, starting with left fielder Alex Gordon. Yost told MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan that “every scenario is open,” and expects to utilize Gordon in right and center field this spring while he figures out where to position Jorge Soler and Brandon Moss.

Gordon, 33, hasn’t manned right field since a three-game experiment with the Royals back in 2010 and has yet to play center field during any regular season to date. The focus, however, isn’t on Gordon’s capabilities. Among the three outfielders, he carries the best defensive profile and appears to be the most versatile of the bunch.

According to Flanagan, Soler and Moss are average on defense and will continue working closely with Royals’ coach Rusty Kuntz as the season approaches. One arrangement could see Gordon in center field, flanked by Soler in right field and Moss in left, though Yost foresees Soler taking some reps at DH if his defensive chops aren’t up to snuff.

While Moss is prepared to see starts at either outfield corner, Yost appears to be set on keeping Soler in right field, at least for the time being. The club is hoping for a bounce-back season from the 24-year-old outfielder, who was acquired from the Cubs in December after batting a lackluster .238/.333/.436 and sustaining a slew of minor injuries throughout the 2016 season.