Aroldis Chapman has been preparing all spring as if he’ll be in the starting rotation, but Paul Daughtery of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports that the Reds have decided to shift him back to the closer role.
Chapman always wanted to remain in the bullpen and manager Dusty Baker wanted to leave him at closer too, so in the end their preferences won out over the front office wanting to see if Chapman could thrive in a 200-inning role instead of a 70-inning role.
Cincinnati spent $21 million on Jonathan Broxton this offseason so he could step into ninth-inning duties and make moving Chapman into the rotation less of an issue for the bullpen, but now they’re paying $12 million per season for a setup duo of Broxton and Sean Marshall.
There have certainly been several instances of a dominant young reliever struggling with a move into the rotation, due to poor performances and/or injuries, but Chris Sale is a recent prominent example of that shift working out brilliantly. Obviously having Chapman around to shut down opponents for 60-70 high-leverage innings as a reliever is hardly some disastrous scenario, but it would have been fun to see if he could follow Sale’s footsteps into No. 1 starter territory instead of becoming a career-long reliever at age 25.
Just one week after Taylor Cole and Felix Peña tossed a combined no-hitter against Seattle, Mariners right-hander Mike Leake worked on his own perfect game through eight innings against the Angels.
It was an ambitious form of revenge, and one that Leake served up perfectly as he held the Angels scoreless in frame after frame. He sprinkled a handful of strikeouts throughout the first eight innings, catching Matt Thaiss on a called strike three in the third and getting two whiffs — called strikeouts against both Brian Goodwin and Shohei Ohtani — in the fourth.
The Mariners, meanwhile, put up a good fight against the Angels, backing Leake’s attempt with 10 runs — their first double-digit total since a 13-3 rout of the Orioles on June 23. Daniel Vogelbach led things off in the fourth with a three-run homer off of reliever Jaime Barria, then repeated the feat with another three-run shot off Barria in the fifth. Tom Murphy and J.P. Crawford helped pad the lead as well with a two-RBI single and two-RBI double, respectively.
In the ninth, with just three outs remaining, the Angels finally managed to break through. Luis Rengifo worked a 1-1 count against Leake, then returned an 85.3-m.p.h. changeup to right field for a base hit, dismantling the perfecto and the no-hitter in one fell swoop. Leake lost control of the ball following the hit, issuing four straight balls to Kevan Smith in the next at-bat and giving the Angels their first runner in scoring position. Still at a pitch count of just 90, however, he induced the next two outs in quick fashion and polished off the win with a triumphant eight-pitch strikeout against Mike Trout for the first one-hitter (and Maddux) of his career.
Had Leake successfully closed out the perfecto, it would’ve been the first of his decade-long career in the majors and the first the Mariners had seen since Félix Hernández’s perfect game against the Rays in August 2012. For their part, the Angels have yet to be on the losing end of a perfecto. The last time they were shut out in a no-hitter was 1999, at the hands of then-Twins pitcher Eric Milton.