Ken Rosenthal talked to a rival scout about the chance of Cincinnati Reds lefty Aroldis Chapman joining the starting rotation, and the scout wasn’t exactly a fan of the transition:
“I hope they do start him, but they’re crazy if they do,” said the scout, who works for another National League club. “It’s Joba Chamberlain all over again.
“His velocity dropped off in the second inning. He couldn’t get his off-speed stuff over the plate consistently. No question in my mind, he’s the closer.”
Chapman averaged 97.7 MPH on his fastball last season, the second-fastest among all relievers, trailing only Kelvin Herrera of the Kansas City Royals (98.5). He finished the year with a 1.51 ERA and 38 saves in 71.2 innings of work.
The scout is referencing the Yankees pitcher who bounced between the bullpen and the rotation since making his Major League debut in 2007. The Yankees went to great lengths to protect his arm, which led to the moniker “Joba Rules” for their refusal to use him on consecutive days.
Though a closer more often than not pitches in some of the most important situations during a game, it is hard to overcome the value of pitching 175-200 innings. John Smoltz, a common point of comparison for starters-turned-relievers or relievers-turned-starters, posted 1.1, 3.2, and 2.2 Wins Above Replacement as a reliever between 2002-04 according to Baseball Reference. Despite the aggregate 2.47 ERA and 144 saves, his best season as a reliever (2003) ranks as his 12th-best season by WAR.
Chapman would have to become more or less average as a starter for the Reds to lose value moving him to the rotation. The average National League starter posted a 4.04 ERA last season.
Dodgers’ left fielder Andrew Toles crushed his first spring training home run on Saturday afternoon. With the bases loaded and a two-run deficit hanging over their heads in the fourth inning, Toles stepped up to the plate against Oakland right-hander Jesse Hahn and unloaded a grand slam on the second pitch he saw.
Third baseman Justin Turner was quick to follow up with a solo jack of his own, bringing the score to a comfortable 7-4 lead by the end of the fourth. Another three-run outburst in the fifth and an eighth-inning RBI single by Austin Barnes raised the final score to 11-6… which, coincidentally, was the same score the Reds used to defeat the Athletics’ second split-squad lineup on Saturday (albeit with a few more RBI walks than grand slams).
Toles, 24, is approaching his sophomore season with the Dodgers in 2017. He slashed .314/.365/.505 with three home runs and an .870 OPS in his first major league season in 2016 and is expected to platoon with the right-handed Franklin Gutierrez in left field this year.
David Price showed “strength improvements” in his elbow on Saturday, but Red Sox’ manager John Farrell still doesn’t think the left-hander will be ready to throw by the start of the season — or for a few weeks afterward. According to ESPN’s Scott Lauber, the 31-year-old might not be ready to debut until May at the earliest.
Price hasn’t thrown off of a mound this spring after experiencing soreness in his left elbow on March 1. Surgery doesn’t appear to be necessary, but the Red Sox are playing it extra safe with their No. 3 starter in hopes that rest and rehabilitation will return him to full health sometime during the 2017 season. For now, Price has been restricted to short games of catch until he’s cleared to resume a more rigorous throwing program. Via MLB.com’s Ian Browne:
[There were] strength improvements to the point of putting the ball back in his hand a little more consistently,” said manager John Farrell. “Today’s the first step for that. A short game of catch. That’s what he’s going through. Not off a mound but just to get the arm moving with a ball in flight, and he will continue in this phase for a period of time. There’s no set distance and volume yet to the throws.
The lefty is coming off of a lackluster 2016 season, during which he delivered a 3.99 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 230 innings for the Red Sox.