Aroldis Chapman to make first start in AFL on Monday

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Word is already out that the Reds are planning to convert hard-throwing left-hander Aroldis Chapman from a setup man to a starter this winter. Just under four weeks from the conclusion of the 2011 regular season, that transition is already in full swing.

According to beat writer John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer, Chapman is scheduled to make his first start in the Arizona Fall League on Monday.

The Cuban defector has already made one scoreless relief appearance in the prospect-packed AFL, and will pitch out of the bullpen again on Thursday before gearing up for his first lengthier Monday outing.

Once the Arizona Fall League reaches its conclusion, Chapman will head to the Puerto Rican Winter League to continue building the endurance of his prized left arm. The Reds are hoping he’ll be able to throw five innings — without feeling any kind of abnormal pain or discomfort — by the start of spring training in February.

Chapman, who’s averaged 98.2 mph with his heater since arriving in the majors in 2010, is expected to open the 2012 season in the Reds’ starting rotation. If he can’t pull it off, the “bust” label will be coming.