Aroldis Chapman likely to face live hitters Wednesday

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Aroldis Chapman is about to face his most important test yet in his recovery from facial fractures, as John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports that the hard-throwing left-hander will likely throw live batting practice Wednesday.

Chapman threw 45 pitches Sunday in a bullpen session, so the Reds want to make sure he feels good before committing to a specific day. However, if he goes ahead and pitches on Wednesday as planned, Reds manager Bryan Price believes that the next step could be a minor league rehab assignment.

“He’s increased 10 pitches incrementally,” Reds manager Bryan Price said. “He’s thrown all his pitches — fastball, slider, change. There’s really no concern at this point in time that his arm and body aren’t ready to pitch.

“But it’s like anything else: He threw (Sunday) we’ve got to see how he responds. I would say it’s likely that he throws Wednesday in live batting practice. But if there’s any concern, we would push it back.”

Chapman suffered fractures above his left eye and nose when he was hit in the face by a comebacker off the bat of Royals catcher Salvador Perez on March 19. He needed surgery to have a plate inserted in his forehead.

The Reds are using the recently-activated Jonathan Broxton as their fill-in closer right now, but Chapman could be ready to return by mid-May if all goes well.

Jim Crane thought the heat over sign-stealing would blow over by spring training

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The Astros’ sign-stealing story broke in November, a steady drumbeat of coverage of it lasted through December and into January, when Rob Manfred’s report came out about it. The report was damning and, in its wake, Houston’s manager and general manger were both suspended and then fired.

After that a steady stream of media reports came out which not only made the whole affair seem even worse than Manfred’s report suggested, but which also suggested that, on some level, Major League Baseball had bungled it all and it was even worse than it had first seemed.

Rather than Manfred and the Astros putting this all behind them, the story grew. As it grew, both the Red Sox and Mets fired their managers and, in a few isolated media appearances, Astros’ players seemed ill-prepared for questions on it all. Once spring training began the Astros made even worse public appearances and, for the past week and change, each day has given us a new player or three angrily speaking out about how mad they are at the Astros and how poorly they’ve handled all of this.

Why have they handled it so poorly? As always, look to poor leadership:

Guess not.

In other news, Crane was — and I am not making this up — recently named the Houston Sports Executive of the Year. An award he has totally, totally earned, right?