Stopped before he starts: Aroldis Chapman is staying in the Reds’ bullpen

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Aroldis Chapman spent all offseason and the first month of spring training preparing for a potential move to the rotation, but with Opening Day right around the corner the Reds have decided to keep the flame-throwing left-hander in the bullpen.

Ryan Madson undergoing season-ending Tommy John elbow surgery likely played a part in the decision, as did the Reds having plenty of rotation depth beyond Chapman, but manager Dusty Baker also told John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer that “Bill Bray isn’t ready to be late-inning lefty right now.”

That seems debatable at best considering Bray has a 3.40 ERA and 74/27 K/BB ratio in 77 innings during the past two seasons, with the raw stuff to match, and has held opponents to a .201 batting average during that time. If healthy Bray could certainly serve as the primary lefty setup man in front of lefty closer Sean Marshall.

Of course, that doesn’t mean keeping Chapman in the bullpen is the wrong move. In theory giving a young pitcher every opportunity to show that he can handle a 200-inning starting role before relegating him to a 65-inning bullpen role makes all kinds of sense, but Chapman’s control problems provide plenty of reason to be skeptical that he could thrive as a starter. Still, the waffling on his role after rushing him to the majors isn’t helping Chapman’s development any.

MLB, union resume blood testing after pandemic, lockout

Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK – In the first acknowledgment that MLB and the players’ association resumed blood testing for human growth hormone, the organizations said none of the 1,027 samples taken during the 2022 season tested positive.

HGH testing stopped in 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Testing also was halted during the 99-day lockout that ended in mid-March, and there were supply chain issues due to COVID-19 and additional caution in testing due to coronavirus protocols.

The annual public report is issued by Thomas M. Martin, independent program administrator of MLB’s joint drug prevention and treatment program. In an announcement accompanying Thursday’s report, MLB and the union said test processing is moving form the INRS Laboratory in Quebec, Canada, to the UCLA Laboratory in California.

MLB tests for HGH using dried blood spot testing, which was a change that was agreed to during bargaining last winter. There were far fewer samples taken in 2022 compared to 2019, when there were 2,287 samples were collected – none positive.

Beyond HGH testing, 9,011 urine samples were collected in the year ending with the 2022 World Series, up from 8,436 in the previous year but down from 9,332 in 2019. And therapeutic use exemptions for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder dropped for the ninth straight year, with just 72 exemptions in 2022.

Overall, the league issued six suspensions in 2022 for performance-enhancing substances: three for Boldenone (outfielder/first baseman Danny Santana, pitcher Richard Rodriguez and infielder Jose Rondon, all free agents, for 80 games apiece); one each for Clomiphene (Milwaukee catcher Pedro Severino for 80 games), Clostebol (San Diego shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. for 80 games) and Stanozolol (Milwaukee pitcher J.C. Mejia for 80 games).

There was an additional positive test for the banned stimulant Clobenzorex. A first positive test for a banned stimulant results in follow-up testing with no suspension.