Aroldis Chapman’s move to the starting rotation is one of the more interesting situations to follow this spring. The transition got off on the right foot this afternoon against the Rockies, as he tossed two perfect innings in his Cactus League debut.
Chapman struck out one and threw 19 out of 23 pitches for strikes. Per John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer, the southpaw topped out at 94 mph on his fastball and had three pitches register below 80 mph as he incorporated some of his secondary stuff. While Chapman has relied primarily on his fastball and slider as a reliever, today he mixed in some splitters and even threw a changeup.
Chapman was dominant in the closer role last season, posting a 1.51 ERA, 38 saves and a 122/23 K/BB ratio over 71 2/3 innings. However, there’s a chance that he could be even more valuable as a member of the rotation. The Reds plan to limit his innings if he sticks this year as a starter, though they aren’t saying what number they have in mind.
The Cardinals have selected right-hander Miles Mikolas as their Opening Day starter, the club revealed Saturday. It’ll mark the first career Opening Day start for Mikolas, who is scheduled to go up against the Brewers when the team hits the road on March 28.
The 29-year-old righty was a strong contender for the 2018 NL Cy Young Award, earning All-Star distinctions and pitching to a career-best 18-4 record with a 2.83 ERA, 1.3 BB/9, 6.5 SO/9, and 4.3 fWAR over 200 2/3 innings. He’s positioned to lead the Cardinals rotation in 2019 as well, with former Opening Day starters Carlos Martínez and Adam Wainwright and some combination of right-handers Jack Flaherty, Michael Wacha, Alex Reyes, and John Gant behind him.
Manager Mike Shildt told reporters that Flaherty, Wacha, Wainwright, and Martínez had all been considered for the honor, but admitted that Opening Day honors were ultimately handed to Mikolas “in recognition of [his performance] last year.” The Cardinals are scheduled to play a four-game set against the Brewers to start the season and will stop over in Pittsburgh for another two games before returning to St. Louis for their opening homestand against the Padres on April 4. Additional pitching assignments have yet to be announced.