When the Reds fired Dusty Baker and hired Bryan Price as their new manager there was speculation that it could lead to Aroldis Chapman moving from the bullpen to the rotation, as Price had previously indicated he’d be in favor of getting more innings out of the stud left-hander.
However, now that Price actually has the job it sounds like Chapman will remain the Reds’ closer. Via Mark Sheldon of MLB.com here’s what general manager Walt Jocketty said during an MLB Network radio interview yesterday:
We feel we have the depth in our rotation now that we can continue to keep him in the bullpen. That’s probably the plan going into spring training. We’ll have him prepare for spring training like he has in the past. He’ll come in and pitch a lot of innings in spring training, so he could go either way. In all likelihood when we get to spring training, we’ll make a decision. I would think he’ll continue to be our closer.
I’m all for giving young pitchers every opportunity to become 200-inning starters before relegating them to a 60-inning role for the rest of their careers, but in this case Chapman has been truly spectacular as a reliever–posting a 2.40 ERA with 14.7 strikeouts per nine innings–and he hasn’t started regularly since 2010 at Triple-A.
On the other hand, Price told C. Trent Rosencrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer that he still thinks there’s a way to get more value out of Chapman than a traditional one-inning closer role and indicated that he could be used for multiple innings at a time in 2014. This year Chapman appeared in 68 games and logged 63.2 innings.
All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.
The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.
It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.
It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.
Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉