Aroldis Chapman threw live batting practice today for the third time in the past week and reported no problems, so it looks like the Reds left-hander is ready for a minor-league rehab assignment as he comes back from facial fractures following a line drive to the face on March 19.
Mark Sheldon of MLB.com reports that Chapman threw 25 pitches, including sliders and changeups, and could begin a rehab assignment as soon as Thursday at Single-A.
Chapman indicated that he’ll probably need 4-5 rehab games before coming off the disabled list, which would put his potential return timetable somewhere around mid-May. At the time of the injury initial estimates suggested he’d be out for 6-8 weeks, so Chapman is right on track and perhaps a bit ahead of schedule.
Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times unloaded a lot of interesting news items about the Rays last night, including a report that the Rays might have “mutual interest” in a deal with free agent first baseman/DH Mike Napoli. The Rangers declined Napoli’s $11 million option earlier this month and owe the veteran infielder a $2.5 million buyout.
Napoli, 36, had a strange year in Texas. He turned in 29 home runs, good for 11th-most among AL hitters, but finished the year batting just .193/.285/.428 over 485 plate appearances. According to FanGraphs, his -0.5 fWAR was the worst mark of his career to date, but on the bright side, he should come cheap for a team looking to swap out their veterans come spring.
Of course, the specifics of the Rays’ offseason plan have yet to be divulged — or, by all accounts from Topkin, even decided on. The club could go the refurbishment route, changing out some of their higher-paid veterans for a mix of prospects and cheaper aging players; or they could opt for a full rebuild, which Topkin cautions against as it could have a negative effect on the financing of a new ballpark. Either way, the Rays figure to offload some of their bigger contracts this winter, and will need to decide if they want to retain Alex Colome, Chris Archer, Wilson Ramos, Evan Longoria and others before pursuing any other major free agents.