Aroldis Chapman still struggling despite move to Double-A

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It’s time to check in again on Aroldis Chapman, who has been working to refine his command in the minor leagues for the past three weeks.

From Tom Groeschen of the Cincinnati Enquirer comes word that the 23-year-old left-hander allowed two earned runs in less than two innings Thursday in his first relief appearance since getting sent from Triple-A Louisville to Double-A Carolina.

Chapman tallied three strikeouts and threw heat as usual, but he walked two and surrendered two hits while throwing just 17 of his 37 pitches for strikes.

The Reds were hoping that Chapman would be ready to return to the back end of their bullpen after just four outings at Carolina, but he’s off to a rough start and could spend much longer at the Double-A level.

The Cuban-born Chapman yielded nine hits and seven earned runs in three appearances at Triple-A Louisville before the Reds decided to bump him down a rung last week in an effort to rebuild his confidence against lesser competition. He had a 6.92 ERA and 15/20 K/BB ratio this season in 13 major league innings.

What’s important to keep in mind here is that Chapman is not some cost-effective young pitcher. He signed a six-year, $30.25 million major league contract in January 2010 that included a fat $16.25 million signing bonus. The Reds have to get him right soon or risk blowing a major financial investment.

Video: J.D. Martinez hits league-tying 23rd home run

Seattle Mariners v Boston Red Sox
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The Red Sox and Mariners left nothing on the table Friday night, going head-to-head in a series opener that eventually ended 14-10 in the Sox’ favor. Led by Steven Wright and Wade LeBlanc — neither of whom made it past the fifth inning — the teams combined for 34 hits and four home runs, including two moonshots from Seattle’s Nelson Cruz and a five-run rally that gave Boston the edge in the seventh.

In the sixth inning, however, the Red Sox were still scrambling to make up a four-run deficit. Left fielder J.D. Martinez cut it in half with one swing, pouncing on an 89.5-mph fastball from Seattle right-hander Nick Vincent and posting it to dead center field for a two-run shot.

The 427-foot blast was Martinez’s 23rd of the season, tying Mike Trout for the most home runs in the league this year. While he still has a ways to go before eclipsing the career-best 45-HR mark he set in 2017, he’s off to a strong start this season: Entering Friday’s game, the 30-year-old slugger was batting .315/.386/.623 with a 1.009 OPS and AL-leading 55 RBI in 308 PA. He finished Friday’s game 4-for-5 with five RBI, just one triple shy of hitting for the cycle.

Heading into the All-Star Break, both Martinez and Trout still have some competition for the home run title. Jose Ramirez is sitting at 22 homers, while Nelson Cruz and Khris Davis are tied at 20 apiece.